Is Cung Le in active retirement?
As a stand-up fighter, Cung Le is a throwback to a time when artistry meant as much as damage: he pivots, he spins, and he uses his legs with the fluidity of a boxer working a jab. But despite once holding a Strikeforce middleweight title -- one he won from an antique Frank Shamrock -- Le has never seemed particularly interested in testing himself against highly-regarded competition. Scott Smith might be his biggest threat to date, but as a stand-up fighter with little interest in takedowns, that’s still not saying a whole lot.
Le allegedly took this fight (boldly billed over the Thomson/Melendez title match) when time opened up in a hectic filmmaking schedule. It’s better than nothing, but the erratic presence is a reminder that the truly intriguing matches -- against Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, or Dan Henderson -- are probably going to remain vaporware.
Does a grappling precedence matter?
Matt Lindland and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza will be a rematch of sorts: the two faced each other in an Abu Dhabi submission wrestling match in 2003, which Souza won by armbar. MMA seems to favor Lindland, who has far more experience in the field and -- despite possessing the least imposing build in the sport -- has used his Olympic wrestling and dirty boxing pedigree to amass a winning record. How six years of experience, wear, and striking will influence the outcome is a small but intriguing B-story for the weekend.
Is “Mo” Lawal being given his best chance to break through?
There will be few Mike Whitehead t-shirts for sale at the HP Pavilion Saturday, but the wrestler -- who once burned out on “The Ultimate Fighter” -- is exceptional at turning fights into long, slow slogs of attrition. Debuting Muhammed Lawal, also a wrestler and perhaps a better one on a pure collegiate mat, will have to try and remain out of that game while implementing his own. Lawal may well win, but it probably won’t be as pretty as he’d like.
Is Donald Cerrone auditioning for Jose Aldo?
Donald Cerrone, the former WEC lightweight champion, says he intends to drop to 145 pounds in the near future to face Jose Aldo. While that would seem to lessen the stakes for a bout with Ed Ratcliff on Saturday -- a loss can be cooled by a fresh start -- Cerrone may intend to use the fight in order to reinforce his ambitions in the lighter weight class. Whether he can make it comfortably is another issue: Cerrone tested positive for a diuretic in 2007.
Which show grabs more viewers?
The good: Despite losing DirecTV this year over contract squabbling, Versus was still available in roughly 71 million homes. The bad: December 10, it dropped to 64 million after trial periods with Dish and select cable outlets ended. Showtime, meanwhile, had a comparatively wheezier 16.5 million paying subscribers as of December 2008 but could see a viewership boost this weekend due to an unscrambled free preview in some markets. With no major names beyond Cung Le -- more a regional attraction -- to cloud the issue, Saturday might be a good pulse test for the brand names. With over four times the number of households, can the WEC afford a second-place finish?