|Photo Courtesy of Sherdog|
The UFC announced that Jessamyn Duke (3-1-1) will be facing off against Leslie Smith (6-5-1) in a battle of Invicta graduates. This is an interesting match for several reasons. First off, don't let her record fool you. Smith is a very talented fighter that is known for striking output and pace during her fights. Not only has she fought some tough fighters, she has beaten Raquel Pennington (4-4). As many of you know, during the 135 women's season of TUF, Pennington and Duke fought in a back and forth brawl that saw Pennington emerge the victor. Having Duke fight Smith will allow us to see if and how much she has improved since TUF. With Smith being known for brawling, it may be safe to say that the UFC is hoping for a repeat of Pennington and Duke.
Coming off of a loss to Bethe Correia, Duke is in a tough spot going into this fight. In her fight with Correia, Duke seemed hesitant to use her reach advantage and or pull the trigger with her strikes. If she loses this fight, that will be 2 in a row and for someone who was on TUF but didn't win that might be all. Smith is in a similar boat as Duke but she accepted her last fight on short-notice against a tough opponent so that should not be held against her. However a win against Duke would do a lot for her exposure and would ensure her continuance in the UFC.
As we know, anything can happen during a fight, but having seen them both fight numerous times I find it hard to think that Smith won't win. She has fought tougher opponents, is aggressive, has the cardio and will get in Duke's face. In her past couple of fights Duke has seemed hesitant and doesn't seem to be improving at the rate that she needs to be. Smith is the better grappler and unless Duke starts using her reach and fighting like a tall fighter, Smith will also be the better striker.