This Friday night, RFA 26 emanates live from 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo., with a much-anticipated welterweight title showdown. Gilbert Smith, fresh off of a January defeat to Chidi Njokuani, will see action against RFA welterweight champion Benjamin Smith, who makes the first defense of his belt, which he claimed against Tat Romero.

On paper, this bout holds plenty of intrigue, as Benjamin carries considerable knockout power, a solid submission game, and the ability to go the distance without many very many mistakes en route to a decision, when he needs to go there. Smith’s game differs only by the fact of his success in the grappling realm, his overall physical strength, and his chin, which has not been rocked significantly since his time on The Ultimate Fighter 17.
What does this mean on fight night?
Champion’s advantages

Both men use their striking much differently, as is evident by their records. While Gilbert uses his strikes to set up his takedowns, Benjamin’s striking game gradually sets up opportunities to hunt for a shot that will rock or knock out his foe. Benjamin’s record may suggest that he relies on punches, but because he stands at 5’11 against the 5’9 TUF 17 veteran, kicks of all kinds will be at his disposal.

Benjamin also comes in with the distinction of havng never lost a fight—officially—on the judges’ scorecards. Of his eight career decision wins, six came by unanimous decision, which means that he will not leave many openings for Gilbert to capitalize on.
Challenger’s advantage

To piggyback off of that last point on Benjamn, albeit in a converse sense, Smith can create his own openings to use Benjamin’s striking against him, especially given that Gilbert has not been knocked out since his time on TUF 17. With Gilbert carrying a 75.5-inch reach over the champion, Gilbert can force Benjamin to become apprehensive about throwng leg kicks. When Benjamin appeared to throw a lukewarm leg kick at Romero, he got lifted from the ground and slammed, and nobody wants to get lukewarm against Gilbert for that reasons, since he does possess the physical strength to make someone pay for that mistake.

That strength pays off well on the ground, but Gilbert keeps more than just ground control. When he outworks his foes to the end of finding a choke, he does not think twice about locking it up. Of the six wins he has acquired by submission, only one of them came by an armlock, while the rest came in some form of choke, which incidentally, is how Benjamin lost his first pro bout.

Final Call

All things considered, this bout has potential to be a surefire lock for a decision verdict, given that neither man has been stopped in a while, and both men would prefer to keep it that way. The former TUF veteran Smith’s physical strength and history as a middleweight could mean a significant size advantage for the challenger, but the champion’s aggressiveness on the feet cannot be overlooked. For humorous value, a spectator could say, “Smith may have trouble in moments of the fight, but Smith will pull through and defeat Smith”, but alas, we are not that witty enough to pass that off as a professional prediction. Still, the almost four-inch reach of the challenger will give the champion some early trouble, meaning that the champion will need to prepare for the prospect of a comeback if he hopes to stay untouched in his first title reign. Ultimately, though, despite Gilbert’s efforts, Benjamin will mount a comeback midway through the third round and do just enough to secure a close call as he retains his title.

Prediction: B. Smith def. G. Smith by decision

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.