Radach vs. Smith: Clash of KO Artists

Apr 9, 2009
Grappling ace Demian Maia wants to end fights without hurting his opponents and without his opponents hurting him. Fellow middleweights Benji Radach and Scott Smith do not subscribe to that philosophy.

As professionals, neither man wants the other seriously hurt, but they bury that notion under malicious strikes once the cage door closes. Radach and Smith borrow their nicknames --“Razor” and “Hands of Steel”-- from boxers, and with good reason. They posses some of the hardest-hitting four-ounce gloves in the business. Radach owns 15 knockouts or technical knockouts among his 19 victories. Twelve of Smith’s have come by that route.

When the heavy hitters signed a contract to stand across from each other at Strikeforce “Shamrock vs. Diaz”, Showtime’s offering this Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., was energized with a knockout-or-be-knocked-out clash between two middleweights looking for footing in a division currently ruled by Cung Le.

“I thought it would be some pretty good excitement,” Radach said. “We’re gonna go out there and see who hits harder in this thing.”

The C-4 presence immediately labeled their bout a potential show stealer, which says a lot on a card featuring a main event between mixed martial arts pioneer Frank Shamrock and Nick Diaz -- a Cesar Gracie black belt who does not mind taking shots to the jaw, as long his adversary pays tenfold. Given recent performances from Radach (19-4, 1 NC) and Smith (14-5, 1 NC), the hype behind their showdown comes as no surprise.

Radach last saw action when he kicked off the main card against Murilo Rua at EliteXC’s October swan song. The first round was initially a striking sprint, and at one point, it seemed both men were out. That’s just part of the process in a typical Radach bout. The Southern California-based fighter battered “Ninja” with a style listed as “Facesmashing Fu” before he finished him for good two minutes into the second round.

Smith fought a month later after freeing himself from an EliteXC contract, as he headlined a Strikeforce show against fellow UFC veteran Terry Martin. A right hook to the temple twisted Martin and gave Smith the win in just 24 seconds.

Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Smith likes the uncertainty
this kind of bout breeds.
After the trench fight Radach endured and the brevity of Smith’s picture-perfect punch, the spotlight will shine on the duo soon -- a prospect that excites both of them.

“You could have two world-class guys but you put them together and it’s a stalemate sometimes,” Radach said, before he added that his match with Smith was not that kind of fight. “I’ll be sure to bring my ‘A’ game.”

Smith likes the uncertainty this kind of bout breeds.

“I like going against [opponents] like [Robbie] Lawler or Benji Radach, where a fan sits there and everybody flips a coin to see who is gonna win,” he said. “I’m real confident going into this fight.”

Wars on the Northern Californian’s resume against power-hitting strikers James Irvin, Pete Sell, Patrick Cote and Lawler empower him. Smith believes his ground game remains underrated, although he’s not disappointed that his upcoming tilt figures to be a striking-only contest. In fact, he prefers stand-up battles, citing their ability to push him past thresholds and subsequently teach him about mixed martial arts. His boxing feels “phenomenal” after adopting private instruction in addition to making three-hour treks to San Francisco to improve his muay Thai at the Fairtex gym.

Radach’s old habits of training like a “transient” and bouncing from gym to gym were to put to rest when the Washington-born fighter locked down in Bas Rutten’s camp. Rutten touts Radach as the man who will eventually beat UFC middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva.

Being pushed by the former UFC heavyweight champion’s liver-smashing kickboxing has “Razor” ready despite his working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday as the director of instructor training at LA Boxing. A bout with the flu infiltrated his training camp, but working as an executive allowed him time off to recover and accelerate training at the right times. If Radach comes in as “hungry and healthy” as he claims to be, he believes Smith will be unable to stop him.

“My last fight with Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua was kind of a little wild because my goal was to put him on his heels, instead of using technique and boxing,” he said. “So this fight I plan to show a little more technique.”

Whatever Radach brings, Smith will not be intimidated.

“I’m definitely not gonna be scared to go in there and trade with him, whereas if this was the first time I was fighting a world-class striker, I’d definitely get in there and question myself,” he said.

We’re gonna go out
there and see who hits
harder in this thing.

-- Benji Radach

Training with Irvin, himself preparing for a move to Smith’s middleweight class, has forced “Hands of Steel” to find his striking rhythm. Before, the friends would try to kill each other in sparring. Now, Irvin’s movement and defense makes him harder to find but no less hard-hitting -- a new challenge for Smith. Lawler hit Smith “harder than hell,” too, as he rocked him in both fights and finishing him in the second. Still, Smith can dish out punishment of his own, as he did against Martin and Kyle Noke, the man he thinks was on the end of one of his most brutal punches.

Radach claims Ryan McGivern, not Chris Leben -- who broke Radach’s jaw and put him out of action for three years -- landed the hardest punch against him, when he hit him cold (before his head was conditioned to take a blow) early in the first round at an International Fight League event and caused a memory lapse until round two. His brain turned back on, and Radach won. He can hit hard, too, and pointed to a 2003 fight in Seattle as evidence.

“I caught [Joel Blanton] so hard,” Radach said. “I hit him with the right hand -- the overhand right. He was walking into it, [and] you saw all four of my knuckles cut him above his eyebrow. Stitches, stitches, stitches, stitches -- all four knuckles across the forehead then right across the bridge of his nose from my lower knuckles and my fist.”

Taking and delivering such hits is “definitely a confidence booster,” according to Smith. His fight with Radach has title implications, though Joey Villasenor, Shamrock and Lawler are already in line. Radach and Smith welcome competition in such a deep pool.

Gold is “always the long-term goal,” according to Smith, but “going in and putting on exciting fights is always what leads to the big paydays.” With a slugfest looming, both middleweights are grateful to have an appropriate stage upon which to “beat the hell out of each other,” Smith said. “You know, we need this competition out there, somewhere else for the fighters to go other than the UFC. Strikeforce is really helping people out.”

Smith has already fought on Showtime and CBS and looks forward to doing so again. Radach has also seen action on network television, and he’s glad his hard work -- he started MMA in 1998 under UFC hall of famer Randy Couture and 2000 Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland -- has paid off in the form of a big Showtime showcase.

They have remained gentlemen and appear dead set on keeping the fight standing. Still, the action can go anywhere, and if someone gets tagged, a single-leg takedown is not out of the question. Radach and Smith agree it’s an apt assumption that the fight will not hit the ground. With these sleep-inducing strikers, that’s not exactly a safe assumption.
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