Cung Le has long been a big name in the fight game, but he still remains a neophyte when it comes to mixed martial arts.
A superstar in kickboxing, Le has transitioned to MMA in the last two years with surprisingly good results. But he'll face his biggest test on Saturday in a nationally televised bout on Showtime when he meets Bay Area rival Frank Shamrock in a middleweight bout on a Strikeforce/Elite XC card.
Le has the power and the athleticism to beat Shamrock, who is one of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport and clearly belongs in an MMA Hall of Fame.
But whether he has the experience to deal with a clever fighter such as Shamrock is another question. I'm betting no. I say Shamrock wins by unanimous decision after putting Le into numerous uncomfortable positions.
With that, it's on to the mailbag, where readers commented on my recent column about Houston Alexander and touched on a variety of general MMA topics.
Please remember to include both your first and last name, as well as your hometown, when you submit a question. And, as always, my answers are in italics below the questions.
Who in the world has ever said Houston Alexander deserved a shot at the UFC light heavyweight title? And who has ever said he was the savior of mixed martial arts? Even before his loss to Thiago Silva, an average MMA fan could name five light heavyweights more deserving than him. Guys like Lyoto Machida, Dan Henderson (at the time), Forrest Griffin and Chuck Liddell all were ahead of Alexander even before his loss to Silva. If you were an MMA fan, you would know that Alexander was always a one-dimensional fighter who would eventually get exposed by a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter.
Brian, I received literally hundreds of emails from fans who were calling for or hoping Alexander would receive a title shot. When the Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva fight didn't materialize for UFC 76 because Silva wanted to fight later in the year, dozens of fans emailed to nominate Alexander to fight Liddell. To say that Alexander's weakness was his ground game is not saying anything Alexander and his team don't know. But he's an entertaining fighter and colorful personality with a good fan base.
Who do Houston Alexander's people think they are kidding? He wasn't distracted or any such crap. He simply has no ground game and anyone who had paid attention to the sport for more than three minutes could have told you that was the way that fight would end. Hopefully, he will train in jiu-jitsu like his life depends upon it, because if not, every other fighter out there has a very easy road map to follow to beat him.
As I said, Alexander's coaches and Alexander himself recognized his strengths and his weaknesses far better than you or I. But Mick Doyle knows Alexander extremely well and he's convinced the issue over the kidney affected him adversely. That's something that will never be proven. Clearly, though, Alexander is going to have to win a fight against a jiu-jitsu expert to silence his many detractors.
My question is regarding fighter rankings. It seems like having No. 1 contenders based upon experts' fighter rankings is not the most legitimate way to determine who the real champion or best fighter is. It always seems as if some fighters get a shortcut to title fights while others are relegated to grinding out a lot of tough fights before they make it big. How feasible is it to have a season of fights scheduled with standings and all similar to other major sports? I understand injuries will be key, but injuries in baseball, basketball, soccer, etc., are common as well. It really seems as if this would be the most legitimate way to crown a champion, as opposed to having a Joe Silva-type of guy who is making matches based solely on the company's best financial interest.
Mario, the thing you must always remember when considering titles is that this is a business. The promoters are in this to make money, not because they care about the sport or want to do what is right. If there is a promoter who also does care about the sport, then that's all the better. But the promoters make the matches they do and give the title shots out because they're trying to sell tickets and pay-per-views. Comparing MMA to a team sport doesn't work. While you're right that there are injuries in, say, baseball, teams can pull a player off the bench or call someone up from the minors to replace him and the game goes on. You can't do that in MMA.
How do you think an Anderson Silva-Georges St. Pierre fight would shake out? Obviously, they are in different weight classes but both are at the very top of their games and the UFC is struggling to find fighters who can compete with them as of late. Do you think this would ever happen?
St. Johns, Mich.
I wouldn't be stunned if it happened down the road, but I'm not expecting it. St. Pierre seems to me to have the style to beat Silva, but Silva is the bigger and more powerful man. Tough call, but if you forced me to pick, I'd go with Silva based simply on size and power.
In regard to the question about Anderson Silva facing Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing match, you asked, "What state athletic commission could approve a guy who is 1-1 as a boxer against some as skilled as Roy Jones Jr.?" My comment is maybe the same athletic commission that sanctioned a fight between Frank Mir, a former UFC champion and jiu-jitsu expert, against someone who never had an MMA fight, Brock Lesnar. Talk about a mismatch. How on earth did they sanction that? Per your comment: At least Silva had a couple pro fights. Lesnar didn't, and it showed, but at least we got to see it.
Fort Worth, Texas
Boxing and MMA are different sports, which is why a Mir-Lesnar fight could be sanctioned and why a Silva-Jones fight probably won't be. Lesnar had one pro fight before fighting in the UFC and, while it wasn't terribly difficult, he had some experience and he was a world-class wrestler. I picked Mir in the fight against Lesnar, but remember, heading into that bout, Mir was seen as flawed. That match, at least to me, didn't seem nearly as outrageous as the idea of a Silva-Jones boxing match is.
The one thing that sets MMA apart from boxing for me is the excitement. Boxing just isn't as exciting as MMA. But another thing that sets it apart is that MMA doesn't have the alphabet soup problem boxing does with the WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF, etc. With the inception of more and more MMA organizations and more and more money to be made, will there ever be an organization that will regulate and stop what boxing did to its champions by ensuring there is only one champion per division and not five?
I understand your point, Blair, and I, too, decry the sanctioning body mess in boxing. A similar situation exists in MMA, but it hasn't become a problem yet because the UFC is by far the most dominant promotion. Think of it: There is a UFC champion. There is an Elite XC champion. There is a Strikeforce champion. But the public largely recognizes the UFC champion, rightly or wrongly, as the best in a given division. In boxing, the public doesn't favor one organization over another and there is no dominant body, so it's not as obvious who the "real champions" are.
I recently read an article in an MMA magazine that said the UFC lightweight division is overrated. It also stated that Dana White should toss some major dollars at Urijah Faber, because outside of B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk, there really is no legitimate threat in the division. Could you see Faber making the jump to the UFC and up a weight class? Personally, I would like to see him and Clay Guida fight, just based on the fact that we would be fully and properly entertained and, lest we forget, out of breath after watching these two go at it.
I don't expect Faber to go up to lightweight any time soon, nor do I agree with the contention the UFC lightweight division is overrated. I think the big fight on the horizon for Faber is a match with WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres. If and when Torres moves up to featherweight to face Faber, that would be one of the best fights that could be made.
LAWLER BACK TO UFC?
Robbie Lawler is one of my favorite fighters and he's so fun to watch. Any word of him coming back to the UFC, because I think he would be a great addition to the welterweight division. The guy's got pure power!
Lawler won't be in the UFC any time soon. He holds the Elite XC middleweight title and will campaign in that organization.
Tito Ortiz seems like he's lost his desire, which is why he's losing to guys he would have mopped the floor with before. What do you think the reason is for this? Is Jenna ruining him as a fighter?
I don't think his girlfriend, Jenna Jameson, is ruining him. I think it is the wear-and-tear of all the significant fights Ortiz has been in over the years which are slowing him down from where he was at his peak. The guy has fought a who's who of the best of his era, including Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, Frank Shamrock, Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort, Evan Tanner and Rashad Evans. One's body can only withstand so much pounding and Ortiz, for as much as he won, took a lot of it from those guys.
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