Scott Smith (left) vs. Cung Le: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Some mixed martial arts fights end in such a way that they practically scream for a rematch. Others, not so much.
Scott Smith's come-from-behind, third-round knockout of Cung Le at Strikeforce's "Evolution" last December was exciting, but its decisive ending didn't seem to generate much interest in seeing the two go at it again.
Still, that's just what fans will at Strikeforce/M-1 Global's "Fedor vs. Werdum" on June 26 in San Jose, Calif., and while Smith wasn't initially enthused about fighting Le again, he said he's now excited for the rematch.
"At first, I was kind of irritated that Strikeforce wanted to do an immediate rematch," said Smith. "I feel like if I'd beaten (Le) up for two-plus rounds before getting knocked out, I wouldn't have gotten the immediate rematch Cung has. It's not like this was a title fight where an immediate rematch is a clause in the contract or something like that.
"But now I want to prove that I wasn't just lucky to be able to come back and knock him out,” continued Smith. “I was irritated when Strikeforce first suggested this fight, but now I'm excited even though it's a high-risk, low-reward fight. If I go out and beat Cung up, then maybe he wasn't the MMA fighter people thought he'd be. But if he beats me, then I lost to a fighter I just beat."
Smith's manager, Mike Roberts, is skeptical of a Smith-Le rematch as well, but said the rematch should be just as exciting for fans as the first fight.
"I just don't think there's a lot for Scott to gain from fighting Cung Le again," said Roberts. "If he loses, then you obviously have to turn around and have a third fight, but if he wins, he's just beaten the same guy two times in a row. What does Scott gain from another win over Cung Le? The only reason to have this rematch is that it's a great fight that fans want to watch."
If Le were to win June 26, Roberts said a third fight between the two is almost a certainty.
"I told Strikeforce when we accepted this fight that if Scott were to lose, there was going to be a third fight," said Roberts. "I don't think Scott's going to lose this fight, but if it were to happen, there'd have to be a rubber match."
In the first fight, Le controlled Smith with punches and kicks for most of the first two-plus rounds before Smith landed a left hook and a right hand to knock Le down before finishing him off on the ground at the 3:25 mark of the final round. The knockout is one of 14 on Smith's ledger, which includes KO wins over Benji Radach, Terry Martin, Kyle Noke and Pete Sell in one of the UFC's wildest bouts in recent memory.
The victory over Sell was Smith's only win in four UFC contests, but he's shined since being trimmed from the Zuffa roster, going 5-2 with one no contest since June 2007. A look at Smith's losses show he has fought top-notch opposition throughout his career, as his setbacks have come at the hands of UFC alumni James Irvin, David Terrell, Patrick Cote, Ed Herman, Robbie Lawler and Nick Diaz.
Smith said preparations for the fight have gone well and that he's focused on getting off to a faster start than in the first bout against Le.
"Camp is going good right now," said Smith. "I added another boxing coach to my team and he's been helping me work on overwhelming my opponents with movement rather than just brawling with them. I've been working a lot about not going backwards when I'm fighting. Instead of going backwards, I've been working more on my angles and being the first to strike."
The 185-pound weight class in Strikeforce is currently in a state of flux, with champion Jake Shields possibly headed to the UFC. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has thrown out the names like Lawler and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza as potential participants in a proposed eight-man tournament should Shields vacate. Coker said the winner of Saturday’s Smith-Le bout would also gain entry into the tournament.
"I feel like beating Cung makes me the top contender or in a situation where I get a title shot if I get one more win," said Smith. "But I'm more concerned about being in good fights rather than being in title fights.
"There isn't anybody in particular I'd like to face if I win, but the 185-pound weight class in Strikeforce is really tough, so I know whoever I face is going to be tough."