Cung Le wins "Battle of San Jose" over Frank Shamrock, earns Strikeforce Middleweight Title in front of 16,326
16,326 MMA FANS TURNED OUT FOR SAN JOSE'S SHAMROCK-LE MAIN EVENT
SJ'S FRANK SHAMROCK ENTERS THE CAGE IN A SHARKS JERSEY
NEW STRIKEFORCE MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION CUNG LE POST-FIGHT
DREW FICKETT AND SOMBRERO ENTER THE CAGE AT HP PAVILION
DREW FICKETT SUBMITTED JAE SUK LIM IN THE 1ST (GUILLOTINE)
The fight many believed would never happen, happened Saturday night at HP Pavilion. An hour before the start of the show, thousands of mixed martial arts fans streamed into downtown San Jose to see hometown favorite Cung Le take on the self proclaimed "King of San Jose" Frank Shamrock. The "kickboxing capital outside of Thailand", San Jose State's NCAA judo dynasty (take the Montreal Canadiens NHL dynasty, then double it), a boxing legacy that along with SF dates back to the gold rush and the agricultural boom years, and the true U.S. birthplace of martial arts, San Jose is at its heart a fight town. Saturday night, 16,326 fans watched possibly the most entertaining fight in San Jose history as Cung Le wore down and then stopped Frank Shamrock with a broken/displaced wrist after three rounds.
Despite a buzz about Cung Le that has been building locally throughout his wrestling in high school and at West Valley College, during his reign as a San Shou kickboxing champion and his K-1 kickboxing exhibitions that aired on ESPN, Cung Le (6-0) was still considered by many an underdog for this fight against Frank Shamrock (24-9-1). Shamrock proclaimed earlier this week that he was a part of the fight business when it was called "no hold barred", and he is credited as an MMA pioneer and submission master who helped transition the sport into a more complete discipline.
The atmosphere prior to the opening bell was electric. A large swath of fans waved south Vietnamese flags and started a building "Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee" chant. Bright red Shamrock-shirt wearing supporters dotted the lower and upper bowl, waving signs by FuelSJ and Vas.tv that said "Spank Cung". Loud Shamrock supporters tried to drown out the chant with a "Shammm-rock, Shammm-rock, Shammm-rock". This was San Jose's version of a Ricky Hatton fight. Despite all of the predictions by the media, and all of the trash talking and internet videos by Shamrock, no one knew what was going to happen next.
The action started early in the first round, as Le landed two kicks and then tried one of his patented spinning right back-kicks. Shamrock, a master tactician, closed the distance before the kick could land. Major warning bells. Shamrock has power with combinations up the middle, and he can submit almost at will on the ground. Any extravagant displays of striking by Le could open the door for Shamrock. Le answered the first test 27 seconds into the opening round, as he gains a body lock and spins out of Shamrock's control.
No easy win for Shamrock tonight. He stated his intention in a pre-fight interview that he wanted to win or lose this fight on his feet, and the crowd roared its approval at those words. Shamrock looked to time Cung Le's kicks, and land hard counter punches if there was an opening. Showtime analyst Stephen "Fight Professor" Quadros said that southpaw Cung Le's right side kick and left roundhouse kicks were dangerous. Shamrock would try to counter with a straight right hand.
EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw noted Cung Le's ability to create distance as a key to the fight. In the last half of the first round, Le kept the seperation needed to land a higher volume of kicks and a few hard right hooks. Le also stuffed a brief Shamrock takedown attempt. After earning a submission win over Phil Baroni last June, Shamrock joked about the damage done to his ACL/MCL. The injury would have to impact Shamrock's mobility, and affect the amount of drive needed to take down a strong wrestler.
Cung Le tried another looping spinning left back kick and fell to the canvas with 1:30 left. Shamrock pressed the action, pushed Le up against the cage, and tried to rain down punches and knees with Le immobilized. Le powers to his feet, and Shamrock backs off. Shamrock not only wants to win the fight, he wants to win it by outstriking a striker on his feet. Two hard series of combinations land by Shamrock, and he finishes the first round pointing, smiling, and mimicking that he is going to put Le to sleep before heading back to his corner.
Showtime and EliteXC took the PrideFC refcam, and labeled it the Showtime cage-cam for first intermission highlights. Go all the way, lose the cage and use ropes, use an oversize white boxing ring that will act as a softbox and better illuminate the fighters from above and below. A cage is horrible for ringside viewing, television viewing, pixelated internet viewing, photography. Showtime used the cage-cam video replay to highlight a hard Cung Le right hook followed by a left roundhouse kick to the body. Early in the first Le reversed that combination with a left roundhouse followed by a right hook. Punishing either way.
A glancing kick by Le at the start of the second knocks Shamrock's mouthpiece to the canvas. Cung Le backs off and lets Shamrock pick it up and put it back in. There is a brief feeling out process. Shamrock is looking to counter a Le sidekick, Cung is trying to land bombs from outside Shamrock's limited range. Le is the more active fighter, piling up the side kicks to Shamrock's midsection. He catches a Shamrock left kick and pushes him down to the canvas. Frank Shamrock remains sprawled on his back, motioning with each hand for Cung Le to join him. Le declines the invitation.
More front kicks to Shamrock's lead left leg from Le, and a pinpoint push kick to Shamrock's left hip. The kind of intermittent fire that wears down a fighter over time. Shamrock is trying to close in the distance to unload from in tight, but he looks wary of eating more side kicks to the abdomen. Counter right from Shamrock lands cleanly, Le nods his head and acknowledges the blow.
Shamrock looks like he is repeatedly trying to duck under a Le punch and charge forward at the end of the second round, but Le is able to back off successfully. The second round ends. There is no mimicking hand signals or smiling from Frank Shamrock as he heads back to his corner after this round.
Lots of buzz from the crowd at the start of the third. A left high kick by Cung Le is blocked with two hands from Shamrock. Le follows with a right head kick that lands flush to the jaw. Le targets another left kick for the head that his blocked with two hands by Shamrock. A second block 30 seconds later leaves Shamrock wincing briefly. Cung Le is a financial supporter and organizer of the annual Born-to-Fight amateur Muay Thai and grappling tournament held in San Jose. Just over two minutes into the third, Cung Le lands a hard Muay Thai spinning backfist that draws blood from the ear of Frank Shamrock. Le follows the backfist by catching a Shamrock kick, and punting his remaining leg out from under him. Le turns his back and circles confidently. In the post-fight press conference, Cung Le said when he turned around Shamrock was still in the air.
Loud Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee, Cunggg-Leee chant from the crowd. Cung Le throws combinations of kicks as hard, and as fast as some boxers throw punch combinations. Le appears to be targeting Shamrock's right wrist with kicks, and throwing hard combinations to back Shamrock off when he tries to come forward. Hard right hand rocks Cung Le. Shamrock tried to seize on the opportunity, pressing the action forward with a hail of punches. Le ties up Shamrock briefly. Both are pressed tightly up against the cage. Shamrock takes a half step back and lands a hard, downward right cross. Another chopping right hand by Shamrock, savage blow. Frank misses with a knee from the clinch as the fighters seperate.
Another spinning backfist from Le. Less than 30 seconds until the end of the round, conditioning for the final two championship rounds will be critical. Cung Le lands a left high kick that staggers Frank Shamrock with the seconds ticking down in the third. Cung Le lands a flurry of punches, and another high kick to the head as the horn blares. Back in his corner, Frank Shamrock tells his trainer that his arm is broken and he can not continue.
Cung Le wins the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship with a third round stoppage. Frank Shamrock can not continue with what is described as a broken and displaced right wrist. All three judges scored the fight in favor of Cung Le at the time of the stoppage, Richard Bertrand 30-27, Cecil Peoples 29-28, and Nelson Hamilton 29-28. Cung Le declined any talk that he was "King of San Jose" after the fight, instead saying that he would be the gatekeeper and that anyone looking for that moniker would have to come through him. EliteXC Middleweight Champion Robbie Lawler would be an interesting title unification superfight with one event left on Strikeforce and EliteXC's co-promotion agreement. Former judoka and 2006 Pride FC Welterweight Grand Prix winner Kazuo Misaki was also brought up in the post-fight press conference, "That would be a great fight" Le said. One thing is certain, Cung Le answered the critics with a strong performance against his most difficult MMA opponent to date.
On the undercard, a larger Drew Fickett was taken down early by Korean Jae Suk Lim. Fickett gained top position in a scramble. Fickett latched on to a guillotine and cranked on it as "The Korean Icepick" regained his feet. Lim tried to slam Fickett to the canvas, but it only cinched the choke in furthur. Fickett earned a submission by guillotine choke at 1:14 of the first round. In the post-fight press conference, Fickett confronted his original scheduled opponent Jake Shields about an upcoming meeting this summer for the vacant EliteXC welterweight title. San Francisco's Gilbert Melendez dominated Gabe Lemley in a Strikeforce Lightweight title match, dropping him to the mat with a hard right, and seldom letting him back up to his feet to see the light of day. There was a big Melendez ground and pound flurry at the end of the first round, but Lemley was saved momentarily by the bell. Gilbert Melendez immediately took Lemley to the canvas in the second, and the referee stopped the fight at 2:18 due to strikes.
The final two Showtime televised fights provided fireworks. Oklahoma City native Wayne Cole took down American Kickboxing Academy's Mike Kyle. The natural light-heavyweight Cole quickly transitioned to an armbar, forcing the heavyweight Kyle to tap at 0:42. In the post-fight press conference, Cole mentioned that his mother did not know he was was a mixed martial arts fighter. Now with the Strikeforce/EliteXC broadcast on Showtime, she would soon find out. Cole also mentioned training himself in his garage, with future plans of moving to trainer Pat Miletich's camp. EliteXC's Joey "the Dream Smasher" Villasenor took down his Strikeforce opponent Ryan Jensen early in the first. Jensen appeared to gain confidence and started trading with the heavy-handed Villasenor. Two jabs by Villasenor set up a huge right hand that ended the fight with a knockout at 4:45. Earlier in the week when discussing fighting in Japan, Villasenor complimented the atmosphere and the fans at HP Pavilion but said during a fight he phases out the crowd noise and focuses on his opponent. His trainer Greg Jackson said he is louder than the fans anyways.
In the non-televised fights, Redwood City's Jesse Jones earned a quick first round TKO of Jesse Gillespie. San Francisco's Darren Uyenoyama took down Cung Le trained Anthony Figueroa and earned a submission via guillotine choke at 1:27 of the first round. Figueroa is a very talented fighter who will bounce back. In what has to be considered an upset, Tiki Ghosn controlled undefeated Ralph Gracie BJJ black belt Luke Stewart on his feet, and displayed excellent submission defense on the ground. Ghosn did a solid job preventing repeated Stewart take down attempts in the third, and he registered more damage over three rounds to earn a unanimous decision win. Sharkspage-favorite Billy Evangelista KO'd Maron Sims in the third round with a prizefight-worthy uppercut in the final fight of the evening.
A photo gallery from the event is available here. More information on the event is available from the official websites of Strikeforce, EliteXC, and Showtime.
Post-Fight comments from Cung Le:
"I think (I recognized Frank was hurt) in the second round, I kicked him somewhere in the middle of the round he shook it off a hit like it stung his arm. I said I was just going to keep kicking at his head. Usually I teach my students to block with both hands. He kept blocking with one hand like he was rolling with a punch. I just stayed on it and kept kicking. I knew he was dipping and I kept my rhythm in the second round. I said if it goes down it is going to go down, I just had to let go. At first, I was a little gunshy. The it all just came together."
"When he got me with that good solid punch, I thought he was shooting in. I dropped down to stuff a shot and all I saw was a red flash of his gloves. I saw some stars, and I kind of felt like I was breakdancing back to the cage. He came in with a big smirk, and I said ok you want to throw down. I could hear my trainer Javier Mendez telling me to get out of there. I said, one more. I got hit again, and then I said ok I'll get out."
"I did not know (if I won every round). I did not even ask. It was a five round fight. I know the first was real close. I landed some spinnning kicks, he got my back, and we scrambled. I know the second round I won, and the third round I was winning when all of a sudden I got rocked. Then I rocked him. It was crazy. It was a fun fight."
"I didn't let (Frank's taunting or hand gestures) get to me. I said I am going to go have some fun. I was just going to go out there and throw some kicks... I definitely opened up, and I started putting some bad intentions behind my kicks."
"I knew (Shamrock's wrist was broken). I felt the bone snap. They brough in the x-ray after the fight, and it was right in half. I have a lot of respect for frank, he did fight with a broken hand. I kicked his hand, I kicked it again, I kicked his head. My hands were all bruised. (The kick that broke his wrist) was right at the end of the third round. I caught him in the head first, and I was going to kick again as he put up his arm. I caught him and I heard the arm break as he staggered pack. Then I chased him down with punches."
"With the top 10, sometimes you have fighters ranked #1 and #2, and they don't put on a good fight. Me, I don't care about the rankings. I just try to go out there and try to put on a good fight. Just like my previous fights, I would never taunt back or play around... I just wanted to put on a fight and go out with a bang, and that is what fighting is all about".
"I never said I want to fight to be the King of San Jose. That was Frank, he said he owns San Jose. Me, I said I will be the gatekeeper. Let Frank come through me. This time he did not make it through. If there is a next time, it will be another great fight."
Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le results:
Strikeforce/EliteXC Shamrock vs Le Results
March 29, 2008
HP Pavilion, San Jose, California
(Match Winner Loser Method Round Time)
1 - Jesse Jones d. Jesse Gillespie
TKO (Strikes), 1st round 0:35
2 - Darren Uyenoyama d. Anthony Figueroa
Submission (Guillotine choke), 1st round 1:27
3 - Tiki Ghosn d. Luke Stewart
Decision (Unanimous), 3rd round 5:00
4 - Joey Villasenor d. Ryan Jensen
KO (Punch), 1st round 4:45
5 - Wayne Cole d. Mike Kyle
Submission (Armbar), 1st round 0:45
6 - Gilbert Melendez d. Gabe Lemley
TKO (Strikes), 2nd round 2:18
7 - Drew Fickett d. Jae Suk Lim
Submission (Guillotine Choke), 1st round 1:14
8 - Cung Le d. Frank Shamrock
TKO (Arm injury), 3rd round 5:00
9 - Billy Evangelista d. Marlon Sims
KO, 3rd round 0:39
[Update] As has been the case for most MMA events dating back to the late 90's, the bulk of media coverage is available online. Three of the top online MMA-related websites, Sherdog, MMAweekly, and MMA Junkie, all provided significant coverage of the Strikeforce/EliteXC co-promoted event throughout the week. Sherdog.com led the way with online radio coverage and interviews including one with Strikeforce's Mike Afromowitz, news reports chronicling the ever changing fight card, a live fight play-by-play, weigh-in video, and an in-depth prefight video analysis from MMA trainer Javier Vazquez. Founder/photographer Jeff Sherdog posted his Strikeforce event photogallery here.
MMAweekly.com's Ricardo Mendoza posted a Le-Shamrock event recap here, and Scott Petersen posted photo galleries of each individual fight here. Petersen may have taken the best photo from the event of Cung Le's third round foot sweep of Frank Shamrock. Anyone with an extensive background in wrestling or grappling learns how to fall, but Le punted Shamrock's leg with such force it actually accelerated him into the mat. And this photo captures that. A number of video interviews from Strikeforce competitors and EliteXC promoter Gary Shaw are available as well.
MMAjunkie.com, along with content partnerships with Yahoo Sports, Inside MMA, Frank Trigg, and Sean Salmon, has become a Drudge-like resource for breaking mixed martial arts news. In founder Dann Stupp's Le-Shamrock fight recap, he labels this event the biggest ever held for the "surging" Strikeforce organization. Stupp also notes that Shamrock kept his word about a very risky gameplan of remaining on his feet against Le, that the smiles and handshakes between fighters in earlier rounds disappeared in favor of punishing blows in the third, and that Cung Le will be featured prominently on next month's upcoming debut of the late-night "Strikeforce on NBC" highlight program following Saturday Night Live and Poker. According to the Mercury New's John Ryan (aka Morning Buzz), ESPN World Series of Poker announcer and Santa Clara resident Lon McEachern will call the action on the 2AM half-hour Strikeforce highlight show.
David Meltzer of Yahoo Sports notes that the "Battle of San Jose" between Shamrock and Le was well worth the wait, and wrote on his blog that Frank Shamrock joined his pregnant wife at San Jose's Valley Medical Center on Saturday night. Meltzer also reports that Shamrock had a successful 5-hour surgery to repair his arm Monday, and that the original injury may have happened in the second round.
Proelite.com, which owns EliteXC, acquired KOTC, Icon Sport (Hawaii), Cage Rage (British), and has working partnerships with Rumble on the Rock, Spirit MC (South Korea) and Strikeforce, launched a new behind-the-scenes video offering from television analyst and former professional wrestler Bill Golderg. In the initial video, Goldberg goes into the training camps of Cung Le and Frank Shamrock, gets thrown around awhile, and then offers a few Goldberg-isms about the upcoming fight. EliteXC also filled in some of the details of their recently announced broadcast partnership with CBS. "CBS/EliteXC Saturday Night Fights" will air its first live primetime MMA event on broadcast cable May 31st at 11PM (PT) from the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. This could set up EliteXC and Strikeforce, who have one event remaining on their co-promotion arrangement, as competitors for individual talent and Saturday night MMA viewers. But as the last two Strikeforce/EliteXC events show, the two organizations are stronger with a working relationship than they are without one.
There is a lot more coverage available online from combatlifestyle.com, David Singer's MMA on Tap, Fairtex, GracieFighter.com, CungLe.com, FrankShamrock.com, MMA Mania, MMA payout, Bloody Elbow, and the The Fight Network to name a few. San Jose's longest running (9.5 years) sports blog was not cageside or even seated at the event, but it was hard not to be impressed by the legion of online media competing with the MSM and churning out quality coverage. It just reenforces the fact that each individual, each news organization, or each blogger should be evaluated on the quality of the news they produce. Mark Cuban take note.
[Update2] Le Pushes Shamrock to the Breaking Point - Sherdog.com.
After living up to his word Saturday evening, the self professed No. 1 fighter in mixed martial arts will need surgery to repair his broken and displaced right wrist.
Attempting his first defense of the Strikeforce middleweight belt, Shamrock, a master game planner, engaged in an exciting -- and confounding -- toe-to-toe affair with the undefeated kickboxer, who's appeared in just six MMA contests to the venerable champion's 34.
[Update3] Le breaks Shamrock's arm, takes title, Broken arm ends fight, Shamrock's reign in championship bout - San Jose Mercury News.
[Update4] Shamrock Arena - Gary Singh for the San Jose Metro.
[Update5] Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Frank Shamrock vs. Cung Le co-interview: This one's gonna be brutal, folks - Damon Orion for The Wave Magazine.
[Update6] CSAC's Armando Garcia talks Nick Diaz - MMA Weekly.
The controversy surrounding Nick Diaz's sudden exit from Saturday’s Elite XC and Strikeforce co-promoted fight card continues to swirl even after the event has ended. MMAWeekly spoke to California State Athletic Commission executive officer Armando Garcia about the decision to remove Diaz from the card and the consequent fallout. According to Garcia, it was all a matter of timing with Diaz and his medical testing prior to the fight, and the commission was not given enough time to respond and investigate.
Armando Garcia went on to quote relevant specifics from the California Code of Regulations, with regards to licensing for athletic events by the CSAC:
The following is taken from a statement provided by the CSAC that references medical marijuana as it relates to licensees of the State Athletic Commission:
"Accordingly, the Act grants patients who use marijuana for medical purposes a limited immunity from criminal prosecution. It does not shield patients, who are also licensees of the State Athletic Commission, from the prohibition articulated in California Code of Regulations section 303, which states: ‘The administration or use of any drugs, alcohol or stimulants, or injections in any part of the body, either before or during a match, to or by any boxer is prohibited.’
The Act was enacted by the people of California to address the medical needs of certain people within its population, and to decriminalize behaviors associated with the use of marijuana. However, since any action taken against a licensee by the Commission is not a criminal prosecution according to State law, the Commission will continue to enforce the prohibition against the administration or use of drugs by a licensee, which is consistent with the Commission's mission to protect and serve California consumers."