When Amanda Nunes dropped out of her fight with Sarah Kaufman, all hope of finding a late replacement seemed lost. The fight card was only a week away and, quite frankly, women bantamweight fighters are pretty thin on the ground. Fortunately Leslie Smith was there to shine a light in the darkness and offer her services up for a rematch that both fighters and fans should be looking forward to. Smith and Kaufman faced off just over a year ago at Invicta FC 5, leading to a split decision win for Kaufman, along with her addition to the UFC roster. But it was a tough and closely contested fight, worthy of a rematch. MMARising reported on Tuesday, that the UFC had signed Smith and that she and Kaufman would be facing off at the TUF Nations Finale on April 16th.
Who is Leslie Smith?
A Cesar Gracie Fight Team product, training alongside Nick and Nate Diaz, Smith is, if nothing else, an embodiment of her gym's ethos. While her 6-4-1 record may not ignite confidence in casual fans, the 31 year old has already faced off against many of the best in her division. Wins of Raquel Pennington, Jennifer Maia, and Kaitlin Young are traded with losses to Sarah Kaufman, Ediane Gomes, and most recently (in a bout for the Invicta 125 lb title) Barb Honchak. In only 5 years of competition, Smith has asserted herself as one of the better fighters in two divisions.
What you should expect:
Smith is an all action fighter. She works in volume and aggression with a style that is predicated on forward movement. Unlike many WMMA fighters she works exceptionally well in combination, switching seamlessly between kicks, knees, punches, and elbows. Her technique isn't always pretty, and she's not the most defensively sound fighter on the planet, but in a division where power strikers are rare and her chin is solid, a brawling style has served her well.
Coupled with her striking, Smith has a very decent offensive wrestling game and a great grappling attack. Once again, like her standup, she can get wild and leave defensive holes. Honchak was able to control Smith for large portions of their fight as Smith was overly willing to give up position and work off her back. She scrambles well and attacks aggressively, but rock solid top control fighters can shut her down.
What this means for her debut:
If you haven't seen the first fight, this means that you should expect three rounds of razor thin action with a lot of strikes traded and a lot of excellent grappling exchanges. Both fighters have the striking chops to keep this close and while I'd give Kaufman the wrestling edge, Smith is the more dangerous grappler. It should be a great fight and tough as nails to predict a winner.
To get us better acquainted, here's Smith vs. Kaufman 1 at Invicta FC 5:
In other signings news, the UFC has found a replacement for the injured Josh Samman, who went down to a torn hamstring ahead of his April 19th bout against Caio Magalhaes at UFC on Fox 11. Just over a week out from the fight, the UFC has managed to pick up a middleweight replacement to face "Hellboy," Luke Zachrich. MMAFighting reported Zachrich's UFC signing.
Who is Luke Zachrich?
The 32-year-old Luke Zachrich will enter the UFC on the back of a three fight win streak and a 13-2 overall record. He's fighting out of the Ronin Training Center, where he also instructs classes. He's a season 7 Ultimate Fighter vet who lost to Dan Cramer in the opening round. Zachrich also faced former WEC vet Eric Schambari in Bellator, losing by submission in the first round. That was back in 2010, and he's been undefeated since. Otherwise Zachrich's record is a mix of cans and decent regional vets, without a lot of name value.
What you should expect:
Zachrich is a veteran fighter with a solid grappling base. He stays active on his feet, probing with straight punches and mixing in leg kicks well. His footwork is decent, he doesn't overextend on his punches or trip himself up, but he's not terribly dynamic either. He's perhaps more content to wait on opponents to engage with him in the clinch than he could be, but once he's there Zachrich has a decent wrestling game predicated on directional shifts and chained takedowns rather than muscling opponents to the ground.
On the mat he's a fairly accomplished BJJ grappler and fights like one. He has smothering top control and opens up submission opportunities well with strikes. Much like his striking he's not terribly dynamic and can get a little static with his positional game. But, overall he's a very solid fighter.
What this means for his debut:
Caio Magalhaes is probably about the perfect opponent for Zachrich to make his debut against. Magalhaes more or less mirrors Zachrich in terms of skill, but isn't as crisp with his strikes and hasn't quite put together the offensive consistency that Zachrich has. He's looked better of late, but much of his success against Nick Ring can be attributed to Ring re-injuring his knee halfway through the fight. Magalhaes is young and improving, so it's hard to say exactly how he'll look next time out, but this is a fight Zachrich could easily win.
It doesn't show much against over-matched competition, but here's Zachrich's most recent fight against Justin Gamble: