Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cung of the Cage

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San Jose, CA--Tonight at the HP Pavilion Cung Le became the Strikeforce world middleweight title holder and unofficial "King of the Bay Area" after Frank Shamrock could not come out for the fourth round in a fight broadcast by Showtime as part of its Elite XC fight series.

It was a fight in which a proud champion kept his word and fought a striker's fight, however unwise it was.

Shamrock stood for the entire fight and never made a concentrated effort to take down Le who resembled a zebra kicking an attacking lion. It was Le's kicks which proved to be Shamrock's downfall.

Round one featured much dancing and circling with most of the strikes coming by way of Le's kicks and spinning backfists. Toward the end of the first round, Le's kicks had reddened the right side of Shamrock's face. Shamrock would land a few punches and remained smiling confidently toward the end of the round.

As part of his theatrics in round two, Shamrock was sent to the ground and made a public invitation to LE to come on in. Le wisely declined and stuck to his winning formula. After a leg sweep that sent Shamrock flat on his back, the smile turned into a doubtful grin.

Round three would be Shamrock's Waterloo as he continued to fight a losing fight. After a few more kicks and backfists from Le, which had been winning the fight for Le up to that point, Shamrock landed a hard right to Le's face and shook the challenger to his core.

"I was seeing stars," Lee would tell Elite XC commentator and former WCW Heavyweight Champion Bill Goldberg.

Shamrock followed what looked to be the moment he had been timing all night and immediately advanced on his momentarily dazed opponent. But Le, via Vietnam, fought courageously and landed his own punches on the heavy handed Shamrock. Shamrock continued to stalk Le with his arms perilously at his waist side and paid for it dearly by absorbing a hard left kick to the right side of his head.

Clearly hurt, Shamrock slowly plodded backward toward the cage and ate another left leg kick. With the end closing in on Shamrock, the bell sounded and saved him, if only for a few more seconds. The smile and grin vanquished as he languished toward his corner.

Whether Shamrock's right arm was indeed broken by Le's kicks or whether he was sure of what his fate would be had he came out for the fourth round, Shamrock chose not to come out for the fourth.

"Who said he (Le) does not know submissions? Shamrock asked rhetorically. "He was the better man tonight."

The future for Le's is brighter than it's ever been. The former K-1 standout is now 6-0 6 KO's and is a star on the West coast, where practically all MMA bouts take place (where's the East coast love?).

For Shamrock, the 35-year-old former UFC and Elite XC champion, the future looks as clear as the grin he gave after being swept. Maybe he can have a rematch, maybe he builds his status back with a few victories.Maybe he retires. No, it was not exactly a blowout and Shamrock is not a used-up 35-year-old MMA fighter. Shamrock has not been in many wars since his last one in November 1999 after he humbled UFC poster boy Tito Ortiz, and retired shortly thereafter. But it's his injuries which may prove to be his Achilles heels.

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