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Le vacates belt for Shields vs. Mayhem

(“See this? Not mines anymore.”)

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced that Cung Le has finally vacated his Middleweight championship, which will be put up for grabs in the co-main event of the promotion’s CBS debut in November:

“I had a conversation with Cung and he has a lot of respect for Jake and Jason, and he’s got another movie coming up, so he’s asked me if he could step down, which we’re going to honor his request,” said Coker. “By no means does that mean he’s going to be retired, but he’s going to be unavailable for the next two months.”

This is awesome news for all parties, and I breakdown why after the jump.

First off, Cung Le comes out of this thing looking golden – if Scott Coker is telling the truth. For all we know, he told Cung to plop or get off the pot so they could get a belt on their broadcast TV debut. But I’m gonna give him the benefit of the doubt because Le seems like a guy who’d be bothered by upsetting the fans. We don’t know if this is the end of his career, but he’s going out on top if it is: undefeated champion with all wins by (T)KO that won “The Battle for San Jose” against his biggest rival. As for the movies, you really can’t fault the guy for wanting to make his mega-money in a way where he doesn’t have to get mega-injuries. At least Cung had the decency to ask if he could relinquish the belt instead of throwing it in the trash “>like Madusa. This is a rare MMA story with a happy ending, and we won’t have to watch a guy “>get knocked out in ten seconds or be reduced to “Dancing With the Stars”. He’s getting up there in age and he’s got a body that’s been through decades of abuse in various combat sports; let the guy enjoy his life hanging out on movie sets with Doc Holiday.

Mayhem benefits a bunch from the fight, perhaps more than anyone. He gets another shot at a championship after Jacare felt his power in the second fight and decided he didn’t want any more of that. He can now bypass the Brazilian that stood between him and a belt in DREAM. Viacom seems to be throwing a lot of promotion behind Miller. “Bully Beatdown” is gonna benefit a lot from having its host on television in front of millions during primetime. It’s crazy to think that only three fights have been widely visible in his entire career. HDNet availability is unfortunately shrinking so his DREAM fights were in the dark; I believe his fights in Hawaii were on online pay per view, if at all; and everything before that probably wasn’t even recorded. It looks like he’s making up for it with interest.

His opponent, Jake Shields, is gonna blow up as well. With this fight, he is going to bypass Cyborg, Carano, Lawler, Scott Smith and Kimbo in number of appearances on CBS. I’ve spoken to a lot of “casual” MMA fans (ones who watch fights but don’t read about them) and most of them think Shields is beast. Even if they just Googled him they’d make the same inference from his record. The guy hasn’t lost a fight in over seven years, hasn’t been to a decision in the last three and a half years, and only two opponents made past the four minute mark of round one in that span. He’s deserved a shitle tot, no question. Perhaps the most noteworthy item coming out of this fight is the fact that Shields has finally made a decision on what weight class he wants to be in. Middleweight seems like a good fit for him since he’s always been a giant Welterweight who cut hard. It now ends the game of hot potato him and Nick Diaz had going on with divisions. Jake can now safely make 185 his home and not have to worry about log-jamming 170 because he won’t fight his teammate. And if he still wants in on the UFC after this, Mayhem will be an excellent litmus test. Guys under Zuffa are gonna get a good feel for how they can compete against Shields after seeing him against a grappler his own size.

This match is an excellent move for Strikeforce. It’s obvious they care about the integrity and growth of the sport with the booking of this fight. Crazy Bob Cook could have just as easily pulled an EXC by loading the show with brawlers, but he matched up two world class-grapplers in what I’m sure will be CBS’ most promoted card yet. We should all be glad that good MMA will finally be on broadcast TV and Strikeforce should get a pat on the back for doing it first.