Cung Le is a fantastic, powerful MMA fighter with a large presence and lethal kicking power. He was hailed as the symbol of traditional martial artists in an MMA setting; he proved traditional martial arts’ place in the cage. He left the cage for 2 years for time in Hollywood, but returned to prove once again that, as they age, traditional martial artists only improve in skill.
He had trailers, video montages, interviews, and all manner of press dedicated to his return to the ring…and Michael Bisping handed Cung Le what was quite clearly the beatdown of his lifetime. What does that mean for Cung Le, for his fans, for traditional martial arts?
Well the last one, I can address quickly; Cung Le’s loss doesn’t diminish traditional martial arts in any way. The tenacity that he displayed is of a quality martial arts spirit. Furthermore, traditional martial arts are made for a more brutal cage; many traditional techniques are made for maximum damage and aren’t even allowed in the cage.
Still, Cung Le was a representative of the ability for older martial artists to make a mark in the cage. Instead, he got defeated, with great physical injury. Is the ring only for younger martial artists? Has Cung let down all hopes of older martial artists proving victorious?
Not even. No matter what age, Cung Le is a force to be reckoned with, and it takes one of considerable skill to do what Bisping did to him. But more than the skill, I think one factor truly led to the brutal victory that Bisping achieved:
Hunger. Bisping embodied James “Clubber” Lang in almost every way as the underdog, meant to be a stepping stool for the return of the triumphant champion Cung Le. He showed the drive and wildness of a true warrior in the ring, and it didn’t take long for him to be in complete control of the flow of the fight.
Simply, Cung Le became civilized. He, just like Rocky Balboa, became a commercial figure who sought to make a triumphant mark in the ring, but suffered utter defeat in the process.
This fight doesn’t need to mean the end of Le’s career – in fact, it can mean a wake-up call. But Cung Le and the media made Cung Le a larger than the Octagon legend prepared to rain utter destruction upon all who dare enter.
The bark didn’t match the bite, and his hunger didn’t match his words. Bisping controlled his jab, and overwhelmed Cung Le with speed, even with Cung Le’s unorthodox style of kicking. Cung Le’s endurance failed quickly, and Bisping wasn’t impatient or arrogant.
Endurance became a problem with Cung Le against Wanderlei Silva, and the same proved true in this fight, especially when Le suffered a catastrophic shot to his eye, which swelled up quickly. Bisping struck at Cung Le before he’d have the chance to react.
Cung Le shows an interest in returning to the ring, but I reckon his approach will have to be much different, and his hunger will have to be organic.
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