It is difficult to find a more complete martial artist than movie star and MMA (mixed martial arts) competitor Cung Le. Le’s MMA style also brought in elements from his time on the big screen, utilizing fast, spinning attacks that quickly made him a crowd favorite.
Born just 3 days before the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) Le and his mother quickly immigrated to the West Coast of the United States. Experiencing bullying, Le took up Taekwondo for self-defense and self-confidence at age 10. These techniques would form the basis for his fan friendly style, and Le would subsequently add wrestling and later kickboxing to his repertoire, making him one of the most well-rounded fighters in the world.
Le ended his Sanshou kickboxing career undefeated at 17-0 (12 KO’s). The mix of kicks, punches and throws used in Sanshou allowed Le to confidently transition to professional MMA as the popularity of the sport was increasing. Although Le started late (he was 35 at the time of his first MMA fight) he was still able to amass impressive victories over MMA stars Rich Franklin, Scott Smith and Patrick Cote in a career that only spanned 12 fights. Unfortunately, his success in film and television served to stifle his MMA career, averaging less than two fights per year over his time in MMA.
Given his relatively short career, Le’s highlight reel is extensive. His array of spinning attacks and throws, borne out of his diverse martial arts background, ensured every Cung Le fight was a must see. Here are our Top 5 Cung Le MMA Finishes in descending order…
- Vs Mike Altman – Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Gracie, March 10, 2006
Le had previously thoroughly beaten Mike Altman in his Sanshou kickboxing days with a spinning kick, so it would be difficult to win more impressively in the second bout. In his MMA debut, Le did just that, completely dominating Altman on the feet and delivering multiple head kicks. Altman had no answer for the distance control of Le, and was knocked out cold by a right hand against the cage.
- Vs Sammy Morgan – Strikeforce: Four Men Enter One Man Survives, November 16, 2007
Le’s 5th fight for Strikeforce also proved to be his most complete in the organization. Showing a selection of throws and takedowns, Le was able to dispel the myth that he was a one-dimensional fighter. Morgan was unable to mount any offence against Le, who was able to land punches and spinning body kicks seemingly at will. The fight ended when Le landed a thunderous left body kick and rendered Morgan unable to defend himself leading to the TKO victory.
- Vs Frank Shamrock – Strikeforce: Shamrock vs Le, March 29, 2008
Le’s rise in MMA had been meteoric, and he was rewarded with a Strikeforce Middleweight title bout against MMA legend and UFC veteran Frank Shamrock. Although Shamrock had 29 more fights in MMA, Cung Le was able to control the fight using his devastating kicks, with Shamrock unable to impose his grappling on his relatively inexperienced opponent. Whilst Shamrock did have some success in round 3 with a barrage of punches, Le came on strong and landed a series of power kicks. Shamrock was unable to continue after the end of round 3, later revealing he had broken his arm whilst blocking a Cung Le head kick. Unfortunately, Le was forced to immediately vacate the title because of a recently signed movie deal. Experts have since speculated that the movie-MMA dichotomy meant that fans never saw the full potential of Le in either Strikeforce nor the UFC.
- Vs Rich Franklin – UFC on Fuel TV: Franklin vs. Le, November 10, 2012
After the purchase of Strikeforce by the UFC owners, Le was finally able to fight in the biggest MMA organization in the world after prolonged contractual issues. Le had not been at his best in his first two UFC fights, going one and one, and suffering a KO loss to superstar Wanderlei Silva. However, he would be back to his best in Macau, as he proceeded to KO former Middleweight champion Rich Franklin just 2 minutes and 17 seconds into Round 1. Franklin was simply too slow, and paid dearly for a lazy leg kick by eating a vicious leaping right hook.
- Vs Scott Smith 2 – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, June 26, 2010
After suffering his first loss to Scott Smith 7 months earlier, Le was seeking revenge in their rematch on what would prove to be the biggest card produced by Strikeforce in its short history. Le was able to rectify his only loss by stopping Smith in the second round of a back and forth contest. In what would be his most spectacular finish, Le executed a perfect spinning back kick to his opponent’s body, forcing Smith to crumple in pain. Le completed the victory with ground strikes. This fight would also prove to be Le’s last in Strikeforce, subsequently making to switch to the UFC.
So there we have it folks, 5 Top Cung Le Finishes! Although spectacular, MMA and martial arts fans can only rue the relatively short career of this martial arts legend. What do you think about the list? Did we get it right, or was there a knockout we missed out? Let us know your favourite Cung Le fights by commenting below, on Facebook or Twitter – check out our Ronda Rousey Top 5 MMA Finishes too!