November, 21, 2011
By Chad Dundas
As is almost always the case, Cung Le seemed to be in good spirits, as he took to his Twitter account on Sunday to show fans the aftereffects of Wanderlei Silva’s fists and knees.
“Here’s a picture of my face you wanted to see,” Le wrote, attaching a photo of himself with a blackened right eye, swollen lower lip and a gash across the bridge of his nose.
The morning after, his gaze had taken on that "what happened last night?" air we so often see on defeated fighters. But, at least, Le's sense of humor appeared intact. And at least his nose was back where it should be.
A suddenly resurgent Silva had pounded said nose almost comically flat on Saturday night while scoring a career-saving second-round TKO win at UFC 139. It was a victory that temporarily put off questions surrounding “The Axe Murderer’s” future, while simultaneously raising them about where Le goes from here.
At 39 years old, isn't it impossible to imagine he finishes out the six-fight deal he signed with the UFC earlier this year? With two new movies coming out during the first quarter of 2012, will he lapse back into the fits and starts that have typified his five-year MMA career? Does working two jobs leave him the kind of time and focus necessary to be successful at the highest level of this sport?
And, anyway, will he even want to soldier on if people keep busting up his nose with such alarming regularity? I mean, first Scott Smith in Strikeforce in 2009, and now Silva. That can't be good for your movie star good looks.
Rod Mar for ESPN.comDown and out: It's hard to imagine Cung Le choosing this line of work going forward.
“I felt great -- 'til I got caught,” Le wrote at the end of his Twitter message and, yes, in all honesty there were a few positives to take away from his performance against Silva.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion’s promotional debut was good enough to earn "Fight of the night" honors and he looked pretty capable through his first 9 minutes, 49 seconds as a bonafide UFC fighter. In the early going, he twice stunned Silva with spinning back fists; and, for much of the first round, he was able to keep his opponent at the proper range for his unorthodox arsenal of strikes.
Had Le been able to land flush with any of his powerful spinning kicks -- like the partially-blocked wheel kick he clocked Silva with two minutes in -- we’d be having a much different conversation today. Instead, by the second, he was visibly slowing down and Wanderlei was able to start working his way inside for the eventual endgame.
It seems unfair, but as reasonably good as Le's performance was in this fight, our final impression was of him losing to a guy unilaterally assumed to be on his last legs. What’s worse, Silva's win provided a fairly comprehensive game plan for how to beat Le: Close the distance to smother his attacks, wait for him to tire himself out, and then finish.
Le's style and his personality will continue to make him a fairly marketable fighter. And it seems likely we'll probably see him in the cage at least one more time before it's all said and done. At this stage, though, his age, inactivity and other career options all raise doubts about how much he’ll actually be able to accomplish in MMA moving forward.
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