There are many different types of fans who watch this sport. The young guy who throws down beers on Saturday night with friends whose MMA world consists of the UFC and screaming at his television for the two combatants currently in the cage to stop grappling and start punching. The mid-level fans who understand the concept of multiple promotions, remember PRIDE, and watch the WEC, the UFC, and Strikeforce. The hardcore fans who scour the Internet for streams of the most obscure events in Japan and Brazil while also analyzing each fight in meticulous detail to see if they can spot the next big "thing" in the sport of mixed martial arts.
While most people wouldn't see a connection between any of these sects of fans, there are specific fighters and specific fights that bring all of these fans together in harmonious applause. It doesn't happen very often as we go weeks upon weeks of arguing about split decision victories, judging, match-ups, and the makeup of an event card, but Scott Smith put the entire fanbase back on the same heading in one flash of his fists.
Saturday night's Strikeforce middleweight showdown between Scott Smith and Cung Le was like something straight out of Rocky IV without the context of the Cold War and a synthetic Russian-made Dolph Lundgren. The arena erupted in applause for their hometown favorite Sanshou fighter Cung Le as he walked out to the cage, and they were awarded handsomely with a flurry of quick kicks, side kicks, and a spinning hook kick that found its home on Smith's body multiple times during the bout.
Like many of the events in San Jose, hometown favorites received much of the love from the crowd. But in what I believe is one of the more impressive feats we've seen over the course of the year in regards to changing moments during a fight, Scott Smith's fake right to a left hook bomb completely changed the outcome of the fight and the minds of the fans. After watching Smith be beaten senseless for two rounds, I found myself cheering for Smith's powerful hands to find their target, and it was evident that the fans in the arena were somehow drawn toward Smith's relentless will to survive.
Fans will continue to complain that Smith isn't a contender and he ruined the chances of Cung Le continuing as a headlining fighter, but even Smith isn't sold on being a top flight talent in the stacked Strikeforce middleweight division. Smith is in the promotion to entertain fans, and he delivered a performance to fans that he's continued to do over the course of his career. Terry Martin, Benji Radach, and Robbie Lawler were all classic Scott Smith performances, and we witnessed another classic on Saturday night.
Strikeforce isn't in this business to overtake the UFC. They want to grab their share of the pie. Cung Le vs. Scott Smith wasn't a quality headliner in terms of unbelievably skilled fighters facing each other. Le will never become a champion for Strikeforce following their recent acquisitions, but he will be a hell of an entertaining fighter to watch. Scott Smith won't be battling Dan Henderson in a main event title showdown at any point in the future. Accept it, get over it, and enjoy what we saw on Saturday night. A true warrior who fought through some stiff adversity to deliver like he's always promised to the fans of this sport.