Tomorrow morning, UFC Fight Night 48 will light up the CotaiArena in Macau, China. The event features several solid bouts for any North American fans, at least those who are willing to brave its early start time and tune into UFC Fight Pass.
The co-main event between Tyron Woodley and Dong Hyun Kim matches (arguably) two of the top ten welterweights in the world. Woodley was seen as in serious title contention prior to his loss to Rory MacDonald in June, and Kim is just a step behind — enjoying a four fight winning streak.
Perhaps importantly, both are 32 and may be entering their prime.
Unfortunately, time isn’t on the side of the two, even higher-profile fighters in the UFC Fight Night 48 main event: middleweights Michael Bisping and Cung Le.
At 35, England’s Michael Bisping is entering his tenth year as a professional MMA fighter. Bisping has enjoyed victories over several solid fighters — Brian Stann or Alan Belcher — over the last two years. He showed in April he could at least hang tough with other high-ranking fighters like Tim Kennedy.
The 42 year old Cung Le, of California by way of Vietnam? He’s got even less time, and has been 100% inactive in that span.
So, just what are we in for?
It’s a tough thing to look at honestly. I think many of us want this bout to be sort of a heartwarming homecoming for Le. His last bout was in Macau, where he scored a knockout victory over a faded Rich Franklin. Le also coached a season of The Ultimate Fighter China.
He’s noted for his background in the Chinese martial arts – in fact, his San Shou career put that sport on the martial arts map, and it’s still exciting to see it implemented in MMA after all these years.
Le visited Vietnam recently to donate his sponsorship money to an orphanage. He described the experience as sparking his desire to continue his fighting and be more charitable in the future, as Mike Bohn reported for MMA Junkie.
But what does he have for Bisping: a bigger, younger, and more active fighter?
The talk reminds me of BJ Penn’s disastrous comeback bout. Longtime Penn striking coach Jason Parillo (who had little to do with Penn’s training for the bout – and nothing to do with the legend’s odd fighting stance that night) was incredulous at the matchmaking: “…two years later (a fighter) wants to make a comeback… usually if you’re a manager, your main job you do is to shake the rust off this kid. You don’t put him in there with the No. 2 guy in the world.”
Bisping isn’t the number two guy in the world. He’s ranked as high as fifth by Sherdog, and eighth by the UFC. But…
I’d like to believe in Cung Le. But then, I wanted to believe in BJ too.
Le says “everything’s coming together” and his injuries are a thing of the past. He could be right. He certainly looks like a different athlete from previous years.
But my fear is that everything’s coming together for a perfect storm tomorrow, with the UFC “cashing out” on an old hero — and it won’t be pretty.