Cung Le Reflects On Saturday Night

Strikeforce’s new middleweight king talks about his win over Frank Shamrock

img_8357-le-vs-shamrock-01.jpgYou’ll have to forgive Cung Le if he sounds a little tired during our interview. It’s tough being the new king of San Jose especially after earning that moniker following a grueling three round war against the likes of Frank Shamrock. Le impressed the entire MMA world this past Saturday night when he dominated Shamrock for fifteen minutes and eventually captured the Strikeforce middleweight crown after Shamrock broke his right forearm and was unable to continue fighting.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Le just days after the victory and among the topics we spoke about included:

* Has the reality of beating Frank Shamrock finally sunk in?

* Did he expect the fight to unfold as it did

* His thoughts on Frank Shamrock’s trash-talking tactics before and during the fight

* His game plan going into the bout

* Whether he knew he had broken Shamrock’s arm

* His thoughts on the end of the third round

* When he would like to fight next

* His current contract situation with Strikeforce


Classic Now

One more note on Shamrock-Le: I am not trying to take anything away from both men by stating it wasn’t a fight of the year candidate. That third round was a tremendous display of guts and courage made even better by Mauro Ranallo, Stephen Quadros and Bill Goldberg’s call of the action. As a team, those three have received more than their fair share of heat but I thought they did an outstanding job last night.

I have actually rewatched the final round a couple of times and my favorite moment, by far, was when Le used a leg sweep to drop Shamrock and just walked away (2:26 of the first video embed below). Consider it poetic justice for all of Shamrock’s antics.

The first time I saw the move it reminded of a famous sports moment when an NBA rookie named Allen Iverson made Michael Jordan look like a fool when he used a deadly crossover to score over him. Cung Le officially arrived last night much like A.I. did eleven years ago.

Make Way For The New King Of San Jose

img_8481-le-vs-shamrock-03.jpgI didn’t have the guts to go all out and predict a Cung Le victory prior to his bout against Frank Shamrock but I wish I did because as far as performances by a fighter with six career MMA fights against someone with 34, this was one of the best ever. As for Shamrock, other than the fact that he was able to eat some of Le’s best shots (especially in the third round) I thought he fought a HORRIBLE fight. Le has no ground game while Frank does so why would he not try to expose him on said ground? Makes no sense. I know he wanted to prove all his doubters wrong but I am sorry to say that his ego was a major reason why he lost. Furthermore, all his antics during the match really got under my skin. I appreciate the fact that he’s a salesman and an entertainer but when it’s time to fight just shut up and fight.

Le needs to develop that KO power but last night he used his best kicks as an axe and just kept chopping away. Mauro Ranallo said it best when he referred to him as a lumberjack. It reminded me a lot of the Keith Jardine vs. Chuck Liddell fight from September.

All that said, I am not so quick to label this “fight of the year” just yet. This was more of a kickboxing than MMA match and that leads me to compare it to the great boxing bouts of 2008 which, in that case, it doesn’t quite measure up. I guess I am a little spoiled but for MMA fans that pay little attention to the sweet science I can sort of understand why they are giving it such high praise. It certainly was a an epic clash but when one fighter sweeps all three rounds its hard to call it a real classic.

One thing’s for certain, though, I hope that the next time we see Frank Shamrock get ready for a fight he will keep the talking to a minimum. I am all for showmanship and bravado but since signing with EXC he is 1-2 and I simply don’t want to hear any nonsense from a fighter who has lost two of his last three. Legend or not.

Photo courtesy of Tom Casino/Elite XC