Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wanderlei Silva vs. Cung Le: Puzzle, Mystery, or Enigma?

The most amazing thing about my blog musings thus far is that I've somehow made it through 27 posts without mentioning Wanderlei Silva's name. Not even once! I'm so ashamed.

Upon looking closer, though, the realization was made that this happened for a reason. The fact of the matter is that Wanderlei Silva is not what he used to be. After battling back from multiple broken ribs and a hurt knee, as well as a veritable lifetime of Chute Boxe style sparring (which is basically "Screw my fight coming up on the 20th, I want to go mix it up now!"), he returned earlier this year against Chris Leben. 27 seconds later, he was unconscious, and Dana White, as well as a bevy of fans and media, called for Wand to retire.

Hang on a second, though. While he clearly doesn't have the physical capacity to recover from damage the way he used to, his scrap prior to the Leben massacre was against Michael Bisping, who he defeated, and looked good in doing so. Michael Bisping will never be a world beater, but he's still a perennial top 10-15 middleweight. He is a true "gatekeeper" to the upper echelons of the division: everyone he's beaten has either faded into obscurity, retired, or wasn't that good to begin with, and everyone he's lost to (Wand, Dan Henderson, and Rashad Evans) is either a legend or a great fighter.

What does all of this mean in regards to his chances of defeating Cung Le this Saturday? For starters, it means that I think it's absurd and laughable that he opened as a betting underdog against a guy whose best win is Scott Smith. Really? Cung Le has spent his career fighting a bunch of hand picked opponents and stiffs, then taking a year off to film another atrocity that no one will ever see. Now he's a favorite against one of the most prolific, iconic fighters in MMA history? Is anyone else baffled by this?

Bear in mind, I'm not saying I'd be shocked if Wanderlei was decimated by Cung Le. Le has a unique arsenal of strikes, and is as fun to watch as anyone. I'm just illustrating that the lines and public perception are more "What have you done for me lately?" than looking at a guys resume as a whole.

Wand lost to Leben because he stepped in and traded with him at the very beginning of the fight, and he did so without setting anything up. In contrast, he beat Bisping by throwing leg kicks and hanging out on the outside, only throwing flurries when Bisping was at a vulnerable point against the fence.

Cung Le hasn't fought in almost a year and a half, because he was pigging out at Golden Corral and filming movies that can be objectively classified as "bad". Like I said before, Le has a wide array of effective strikes that he's shown the ability to land at will. I don't think I've ever seen someone land so many spinning back kicks to the head. Sidekicks, crescent kicks, short punches ... don't get the wrong idea about Le: he can strike. But he's never even been grounded in an MMA fight (it's true), and he is laughably inactive. I just think this is baptism by fire for Le. Wanderlei will probably get pelted a few times with flashy strikes, but his tenacity and experience will carry him to a victory here.

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