UFC on Fuel 6: Should Cung Le Be Taken Seriously as a Top Middleweight?

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Cung Le (left) punches Patrick Coto during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

By the time Cung Le entered mixed martial arts in 2006, he was already regarded as something of a combat legend.

Though he never penetrated America's mainstream conscious, Le's stylishly stunning Sanshou kickboxing techniques gained him notoriety among niche combat sports fans, who came to revere him as a living Street Fighter character.

When Le did make the transition to MMA, he did so to moderate fanfare—and major expectations.

More than six years since his debut, Le has compiled an 8-2 professional record, won a title under the Strikeforce banner and currently inhabits the sport's premiere organization. 

That's not a bad list of accolades.

But, whether or not Le is a top competitor in the UFC 185-pound weight class is a different matter. Because when it comes down to it, he's not a serious title threat, or even a serious threat to earn a title fight.

That's not to knock him, but at 40 years of age, the time for improvement has come and gone, and his skills just aren't rounded enough to break into that elite level.

Le does employ surprisingly solid wrestling and he hasn't looked completely lost on the mat when he's been there, but even when paired with his exotic striking repertoire, just-good-enough attributes don't make a champion-caliber fighter.

Le's ceiling was revealed when he was knocked out by Wanderlei Silva—a long-past-his-prime Silva—in the second frame of their 2011 bout.

And his ceiling was shown to be below where the Michael Bispings, Alan Belchers, Vitor Belforts and Chris Weidmans of the division already are, let alone Anderson Silva himself.

So while Le is a solid mixed martial artist, he's not a current or future title threat. He's still an incredibly entertaining and talented athlete though, and could even pocket a nice win or two before he hangs it up for good. 

But he's no title contender.

He may have been had he entered the sport 10 years earlier, but what Le could have turned an earlier introduction to MMA into is just conjecture.