Thanh Le wants to show that there are levels to the game in his next ONE featherweight world title defense.
On August 26, Le (13-2) will defend his belt against surging Chinese star Tang Kai (14-2) in the co-main event of ONE 160 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Both mixed martial artists are known for their concussive striking – with 24 knockouts among their 27 combined victories – but the reigning king thinks his challenger will feel the step up in class when they go head-to-head.
"(Tang) has a lot of the same strengths I do," the Vietnamese-American said. "He's sharp. His movement is good and developed. His evasiveness is pretty good when he wants to be slick. He'll engage when he thinks he has the advantage and he'll bail when he thinks he is on even footing or in a negative position. So some of the things that I do well, he does well also, but I do them better.
"If he wants to whip out some of his wrestling, I think I'll finish him on the ground. And if he wants to keep this standing, then I think you'll see the gap between good and elite."
With nine straight victories and three consecutive knockouts, Tang will have plenty of confidence for this world title showdown. He's already vowed to attack the reigning titleholder and plans to search for another KO.
However, Le isn't worried. The 50/50 and MidCity MMA representative expects to have an advantage on the feet, no matter how the Chinese athlete tries to navigate toward his goal.
"If (Tang) wants to be a sniper and a ninja from the outside, that's my game," the 36-year-old said. "He dies 10 times out of 10.
"If he wants to go in there and mix it up and make it hectic and crazy, then that is his best chance. But I'm really good at that stuff too, so that's going to be a problem for him as well. If I hit him, he's going to sleep."
Le thinks Kai's aggression will lead to his downfall
Known as a master technician, Thanh Le is happy to probe and look for a finish or absorb pressure and counter his way to a victory.
The ONE featherweight world champion knows that Kai will fight aggressively on August 26, and he's prepared to face relentless offense in their matchup.
At the same time, he believes the 26-year-old will ultimately regret his approach.
While the challenger's style is exciting, Le thinks it will open up a golden opportunity to fire back. And when that chance presents itself, he plans to maintain his 100 percent finishing rate in the ONE circle.
"He looks for the finish everywhere," the Louisiana native added. "That's why he's an exciting fighter. That's why he's fun to match up against. He could be more disciplined. In order to send some of your defenses out to go attack, they're not at home protecting the castle, right?
"Because he's a younger, inexperienced guy trying to go and get this belt that means so much to him, he's going to act like it, and that's what we're going to take advantage of.
"(My prediction is) we go into the fourth round, he throws that two-three combo and misses. I come up on the backside and he catches a right hand down the pipe and goes to sleep, fourth round."
This story first published at ONEFC.com.