Sarah Kaufman’s UFC career hasn’t exactly taken off like a rocket. In her first fight with the promotion, Kaufman lost a split decision to Jessica Eye that was later overturned and recorded as a no-contest by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation due to a failed drug test by Eye.

Following that debacle, Kaufman was slated to face Shayna Baszler at The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale on April 16 at Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. But then Baszler had to withdraw due to an injury. Amanda Nunes stepped in quickly to fill the void, but she too was pulled because of an injury. Kaufman is now set to face her fourth different opponent in the UFC and she hasn’t even entered the cage two times.

Kaufman’s latest opponent is a familiar face, UFC newcomer Leslie Smith. Smith and Kaufman faced each other at Invicta FC 5 in April 2013. In that encounter, Kaufman was able to escape with a narrow split decision victory.

Although Smith’s record, standing at 6-4-1, may not be earth-shattering, don’t be fooled into thinking that she isn’t a quality opponent or that she is undeserving of the opportunity. Smith is as game at they come. This Cesar Gracie fighter would be a test for anyone. In fact, Smith is a better fight for Kaufman than either Baszler or Nunes.

Kaufman already faced and defeated Baszler in convincing fashion on a 2009 Strikeforce Challengers card. There’s a good chance she would have been taken to the cleaners by the young gun Nunes. Obviously, the Nunes fight would have garnered more exposure and acclaim, but fighting Smith gives her the opportunity to do three things at once.

First, it gives Kaufman a chance to set the record straight. There are a lot of MMA pundits and fans who believe that Smith won their first meeting. This is her opportunity to show that her prior win was rightfully deserved.

Second, this fight is winnable and carries enough name value to bump her up the rankings. Beating Baszler again doesn’t do a whole lot to advance Kaufman’s name into the title picture, and losing to Nunes moves her further down the ladder and possibly out of the UFC. A fight against Smith is the ideal risk-reward scenario.

Third, and most important, a fight against Smith is almost guaranteed to be exciting. In her last three outings with Invicta FC, Smith has garnered “Fight of the Night” honors. Smith simply is not a fighter who puts on boring fights. She knows how to captivate the audience, which is a good thing for Kaufman.

Even though Kaufman is extremely tough and talented, she isn’t exactly known as a “crowd-pleaser.” Getting into title contention in the UFC isn’t just about wins and losses. It’s about galvanizing the fan base in the process. Kaufman has all the talent to be a perennial title contender in the UFC, but she lacks the “it” factor and star appeal.

Being a star is not about being sexy and posing for magazines. It is about the kind of fights a fighter puts on. Fighters who not only win but do so while putting on entertaining, fan-friendly fights will always get better placement on cards and land more opportunities.

With UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey devouring opponents like a fat kid devours Oreos, the UFC is in desperate need of intriguing match-ups for her. Kaufman can put herself into that conversation with an exciting win over Smith.

Of course, talking about getting the win and actually being able to pull it off are two entirely different beasts.

Smith is very much like her fellow Cesar Gracie fighters, the Diaz brothers, in that she stays in her opponent’s face and wears them down with the accumulation of damage she is able to inflict. Kaufman is going to have to close the distance better in this fight if she wants to get the win and impress the fans. Smith has a decisive height and reach advantage, and if Kaufman can’t figure that out early in the bout, then it is going to be another long night for her.

On the inside, Kaufman has the power and dirty boxing ability to be lethal, and she needs to utilize those aspects of her game to make this fight go her way. Smith is as tough as they come, so a finish is unlikely. However, expect this one to be every bit as much the barn-burner as their first fight.

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.