The fight between Thanh Le and Garry Tonon has not been officially booked but the featherweight champion is already talking openly about it. He looks set to make the first defence of his title against the decorated BJJ black belt in the coming months.
Le has finished all four of his ONE Championship opponents with strikes. Tonon hasn’t been quite so consistent with his submission wins but both men have a 100% winning record for the promotion.
The champion sees this bout as a clash of styles,
“That’s always an interesting matchup, right? We have a grappler versus striker type of situation.”
However Le is quick to point out that this would be an overly simplistic way to preview this potential title fight,
“Garry is a super-dangerous grappler obviously (but) Garry’s comfortable on the feet. He’s getting better with his striking. You’ll see that he has some confidence in the way he moves his head and the way he closes the distance,” he said.
He is also confident in his grappling and doesn’t see the two fighters as being mismatched in either of their specialist departments,
“I don’t think if he stands with me for ten seconds, he goes straight to sleep. And I don’t think if I grapple with him for ten seconds, I go straight to getting heel hooked or submitted.”
But Le does acknowledge that the two have contrasting strengths and he thinks there is one factor in his favour,
“It’s an interesting matchup because we’re both competent in the other art, but we’re so dominant and such a specialist in our specific realms that it presents a problem for the other person. What’s always cool and what’s lucky for the strikers is we get to start on the feet.”
Le’s striking has been too good for all of his ONE Championship opponents to date including former champion Martin Nguyen. The 35 year old clearly pack a punch bit believes it is his movement which sets him apart from other stand up specialists in the sport,
“I think what I present that is a little difficult to game plan for and to manage is my movement and the amount of power that I bring while being a movement guy,” he said.
Le thinks a combination of speed and power is behind the ‘weird mix’ that no-one in the ONE Championship featherweight division has been able to cope with,
“You’ve got a lot of fighters that kind of give you the movement but don’t really bring the heat. And then you’ve got a lot of guys that bring some heat but don’t move well and can’t vacate spaces, disappear, cut angles, and make you miss on shots. So, I think it’s a weird mix that I bring in.”
Of course Tonon will try to take him out of his comfort zone but Le says this type of challenge is what he lives for,
“I think it’s going to bring a big, exciting clash of styles. That’s always interesting, fun, and motivating, to be able to fight a specialist in an area that I’m not a specialist in.”