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Scott Smith Aiming for Early KO in Rematch with Cung Le

As exciting as it is to watch, there are a couple different problems with Scott Smith's fighting style. Don't worry, he knows all about them.

For one, watching him in action is hell on anyone who cares about him. His penchant for come-from-behind knockouts, his ability and apparent willingness to absorb cringe-inducing amounts of punishment, that's tough on the nerves of his friends and family.

"I get it from everybody – from my coaches, my manager, my mom. Everybody," Smith told MMA Fighting. "I wouldn't want to corner me. Let's put it that way. I've had guys say, 'I can't corner you anymore. You're going to give me a heart attack.'"

Consider his last fight against Cung Le. For two and a half rounds, Smith got bounced around the cage like a hapless sparring partner. Every time he tried to set himself and unleash one of his power punches, another kick from another unusual angle knocked him off balance.



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He got frustrated. He even got a little down on himself. Ten minutes worth of punishment will do that to a guy. But like he has at several other points in his career, he stayed in the fight and waited for the chance to land just one solid blow that would change everything.

But after he'd dropped Le with a left and then finished him off with a hail of right hands, and even after referee "Big" John McCarthy pulled him off his bloodied and non-responsive opponent, it didn't sink in for Smith right away.


"Leading up to the fight, you have nights where you dream that the fight's over and you won already. Then you wake up and you're like, dammit. But it was actually kind of the same feeling when I beat him. For a second there, I was almost waiting to wake up, but I never did."

Not content to let Smith live on indefinitely in his dream state -- or Le in his nightmare -- Strikeforce has turned right around and put the two fighters into a rematch on this weekend's fight card in San Jose. For Smith, it almost seems as if there isn't much to gain from a second meeting. He even considered turning it down, he said, reasoning that Le should have had to win at least one fight in the interim to "earn his stripes."

He accepted it because, for one, he isn't much for turning down fights. For another, there is a definite upside to the rematch, and it's the chance to prove that the first victory wasn't a fluke.

"There's a lot of haters out there who think I just got lucky," Smith said. "I want to go out there and prove that I can actually outpoint him, and then knock him out in the first round, rather than just catching him."

But according to oddsmakers, most of whom have Smith pegged as greater than a 2-1 underdog, it's Le who's still the better fighter. That's also the prevailing wisdom among many fans. This, in its own way, is another problem with Smith's fighting style.

Because he depends on his ability to take several shots in order to land one big one, it often makes him look overmatched. The same could be said about his knockout victory over Benji Radach last April, or even his win over Pete Sell in 2006.


Both were great victories that established him as a fighter who was always a threat as long as he was still standing, and both were thrilling, memorable finishes after grueling battles. Those are nice wins to have, but for Smith it's still his 24-second knockout of Terry Martin that stands out as one of his greatest career moments.

"I fought [Robbie] Lawler a few months before and I had lost that fight and broke my hand and had to have surgery. I took the fight with [Martin] on way too short of notice. I had been out of my camp for six weeks with the injury, but I took that fight purely for financial reasons. In my head, I really thought I was just going in there to collect the show purse. It was right before the holidays, and I needed the money. To go in there and get double what I thought I was going to get, and to end it quick without injuring my hand, that was amazing."

Amazing, at least from Smith's perspective, but not necessarily the fight fans will remember him for. It doesn't compare to his first fight with Le, and he knows it. At 31 years old though, that might not be great news for his career longevity.

Fortunately for Smith, that's a sacrifice he's willing to make.

"If it means for me to have a longer career that I have to go lay on people and have boring fights, then I'd just as soon have a shorter, more exciting career," he said. "As long as I'm putting on a good show and people want to watch me, I'm okay. I want them to want to see me fight. I'm not saying I'm going to be the best fighter in the world. I just want to be an exciting fighter."

As anyone who saw his first clash with Le knows, Smith is almost always a crowd-pleaser. What remains to be seen this weekend is if he can do it without coming out on the losing end for the majority of the fight.

Maybe he got lucky the first time. Maybe he just combined durability with knockout power. Whatever you make of it, if he pulls out another knockout on Saturday not even the most skeptical fan can deny him his due. It's not luck if you do something over and over again, after all. Sooner or later it becomes a habit, and maybe even a trademark.