The Face Off: UFC 139 Edition

UFC 139 Press ConferenceHeavyMMA writers go toe-to-toe in a UFC 139 debate

The Case for Cung Le (Finley 2-0, Reigning Champion)

Champions don’t cement their title reigns until they have successfully defended their crowns. With my first defense in the record books, I can now move onto forging my legacy. Standing in the way of my dreams is Nate “Flava in Ya Ear” Lawson, and with this match-up between Cung Le and Wanderlei Silva, I plan on bringing the pain once again.

While Le is four years Silva’s elder, on the MMA spectrum the fighter/actor is in his infancy by career comparison. With only eight bouts to his name, Le’s status in the sport is nowhere near the legendary legacy Silva has amassed. With that being said, the former Pride champion’s best days are behind him, and Le is coming into this fight at UFC 139 as the odds on favorite. If this scrap had come eight years earlier with Wandy in his prime, the outcome would most likely be destruction. But with Le motivated for a run in the UFC and Silva barely holding onto his position with the organization, things seem to be stacked up against the Brazilian.

For Silva to turn the fight into the type of battle he needs, the distance will have to be closed. Le’s Sanshou karate-based style allows him to keep opponents at the range he desires and, when Silva makes his charge, Le will be able to pick his shots. When you mix well-timed power to a chin which has been ground down over years of battle; you have the recipe for a knockout. There is always the chance Silva catches Le in a furious exchange, but reducing the legendary fighter to only having a puncher’s chance is a hard reality to swallow.

Le will make his debut in exciting fashion, scoring a knockout win over Silva. While I expect to see the knockout in the first round, there is a chance it happens in the early second. Le wins via KO. That’s how I see it and that’s how it is going to go.

Prediction: Le wins via TKO in the 1st round

The Case for Wanderlei Silva (Nate Lawson 0-2, Struggling Contender)

For how badly I need a win in the Face-Off series, picking Wanderlei Silva to defeat former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le is hardly the safe play heading into UFC 139 this Saturday night.

Regardless of his storied career, Silva has struggled in the Ultimate Fighting Championship since returning in 2007 against Chuck Liddell, losing four of his last six fights, including his most recent contest against Chris Leben at UFC 132 which ended via brutal knockout.

So call me crazy when I tell you not to count out “The Axe Murderer” just yet. Though his career may be winding down quickly, it will not end at the hands of Cung Le, even though Le boasts some of the best kickboxing in the sport.

But for that to happen, Silva’s gameplan needs to be focused on closing the distance as early and as often as possible, which could very easily counter the technique of Le. And when the Brazilian does close the distance, Le’s vicious kicks will no longer be the effective force we are accustomed to, forcing the fight into the brawling style of contest Silva is so fond of.

Also, I have to bring up the fact that Silva has fought the sport’s best throughout his entire career, while Le’s biggest win came against Frank Shamrock over three years ago. And the only other opponent with a recognizable name amongst Le’s victims is Scott Smith, who also happened to knock out the fighter-turned-actor back in December of 2009.

Now, Le has said that he is fully focused on mixed martial arts for this fight, leaving the movie scene behind for a time, but for a fighter like Wanderlei Silva, there was never a moment where mixed martial arts wasn’t his number one focus. Silva, quite simply, will want it more and, when he inevitably breaks Le’s defenses, the Brazilian will taste victory one more time, briefly delaying his career from fading into the distance.

Prediction: Silva def. Le via technical knockout, Round 3