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Next for Cung Le: Top 10 Opposition

Dave Meltzer's article on the Le/Shamrock fight hints at some exciting future matchups for Cung Le:

Le talked after the fight about potentially defending his title against either 2006 Pride middleweight Grand Prix champion Kazuo Misaki, or Elite XC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler.

Misaki recently signed a non-exclusive two fight deal with Strikeforce. So that gives them a great window to build him up in one fight and then let him challenge Cung for the belt in his second match. Maybe a Misaki/Villesenor match would be a good way to introduce the Strikeforce fans to the "Grabaka Hitman". Of course, with the up and down Misaki, it's always possible he could lose that warm up match. His last two years have been a roller-coaster with wins over Shooto champ Siyar Bahadurzada, Denis Kang, Dan Henderson and Phil Baroni (plus a NC against Yoshihiro Akiyama) and losses to Frank Trigg, Paulo Filho and Henderson. His free-wheeling style makes him a very entertaining fighter, and a hard matchup for more conventional strikers.

Misaki was ranked #9 in the February Bloody Elbow meta-rankings and I expect him to have risen slightly when we roll out the March rankings next week. I think Cung could handle Misaki honestly, but you never know what you'll get from the unpredictable Japanese street-fighter.

Robbie Lawler is a different kettle of fish. Lawler will be defending his EliteXC belt against Scott Smith on the big CBS network TV MMA debut. So, barring a big upset by Smith, Lawler will have been exposed to a very large audience already -- on top of his familiarity to UFC fans. Lawler is even more highly ranked than Misaki (#4 on the last BE meta-rankings) but I don't see him presenting an impossible hurdle to Le. Lawler has decent wrestling but almost never goes for the takedown, preferring to use his powerful boxing. But I think Le's unconventional kicking attack could stymie Lawler just like it did Frank.

Even bigger than the question of how will Le fare against legit top ten competition, is the question, where and how will those fights air? Strikeforce and EliteXC have been co-promoting the Frank Shamrock cards on EliteXC's Showtime slot. That's because Frank managed to sign with both organizations at the same time and somehow got them to work together. Now that both EliteXC and Strikeforce have network tv deals (and yeah Elite's is a much better deal) will this be the end of their cross-promoting matches? My gut tells me that Gary Shaw likes making money above all and its obvious that Cung Le means big paydays for everyone.


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