When former WEC Light Heavyweight Champion “Hands of Steel” Scott Smith (16-7) enters the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday to make his official weight for his battle with “Semtex” Paul Daley (22-10-2) at Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu the next day, he will be in a new division once again. Smith began his career at heavyweight then gradually descended through the weight classes and will take on his first welterweight opponent in the British knockout artist.
Spending a large percentage of his career at middleweight, the Elite XC and UFC veteran has had many dog fights with some big names: “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (17-6) twice for the Elite XC Middleweight Championship, “The Predator” Patrick Cote (13-7), Cung Le (7-1) twice, “The Razor” Benji Radach (19-5), and an unforgettable knockout over “Drago” Pete Sell (8-5). Smith is often referred to by his fan-given nickname, “The Comeback Kid”, for his come-from-behind knockout wins and Rocky Balboa-esque spirit. However, Smith has had somewhat mixed success in the past two years, going 3-2 in his last five fights. He was knocked out by Cung Le at Strikeforce: Insider in June and submitted via Rear Naked Choke by “Diablo” Nick Diaz (22-8) at a 180lb. catchweight.
Making the cut: This will be Smith’s first cut to a weight lower than 180lbs., and Smith has stated that the new division is a good fit for him. He cited that he too easily made 185lbs. several times and prefers the more regimented diet involve in cutting down to welterweight. Smith told MMA Junkie,
I was usually walking around at about 200 [lbs.] just because I could, and then I would just cut down a couple of weeks before the fight. I jumped right back into training after my last fight and didn’t allow myself to get out of shape. I was lifting, eating, and I never got above 190. I thought it made sense to go down to 170.”
Smith likely will find his cut to 170lbs. to be advantageous – as he is a smaller middleweight than his opponents comparatively and at welterweight with his above average height and physique he will more often than not be the bigger man in the cage. The size advantage furthermore may grant more power in his strikes along with the speed he already possesses.
On the other hand, a diminished and gaunt Scott Smith could show up to Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu if he improperly conducts the weight cut, or if it is just too much for his body. In the 180lb. catchweight bout with Nick Diaz, “Hands of Steel” looked fatigued and quite literally beaten to the punch in almost every exchange. Diaz landed 207 total strikes to Smith’s 31, and the meager number that he did land were in an exchange where Diaz had dropped his hands.
A man of Smith’s experience and accomplishments as well as his coaching staff certainly have the sense to closely monitor the weight cut to ensure that “Hands of Steel” enters the cage with a full tank of gas despite the predictions of a short fight.
The future of the new welterweight “Hands of Steel”: A new division and the more strict diet and training schedule it entails could potentially give new life to Scott Smith’s career. He will have to work continuously to keep his weight at a level less than what his body is used to, with his 190lb. walking around weight having to drop 20lbs. to fight. Quick turn around fights are made more possible by competing in a smaller division, as by staying in shape his body can adapt to the lower weight, keeping him fight ready with ample time to prepare for an upcoming bout or even the ability to serve as a replacement in a fight where one opponent drops out. The “Hands of Steel” of his former light heavyweight and middleweight divisions will show up as an improved version of himself – just a little lighter, but with all the heart all knockout power he is credited for having during his storied career.