Donnie Yen faced many great martial artists in the Ip Man movies, but one kung fu battle with MMA fighter was an opportunity the series missed. The Donnie Yen-anchored Ip Man movies tell the tale of Bruce Lee’s legendary mentor in Wing Chun kung fu, though admittedly conveying a greatly fictionalized version of Ip Man’s life story. Donnie Yen put arguably the definitive stamp on cinematic portrayals of Ip Man with his performance, but the Ip Man movies also made sure he was not the only outstanding martial artist in the film.

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Throughout the Ip Man franchise, the list of martial artists portraying opponents of Ip Man’s is vast. Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Fan Siu-wong, Darren Shahlavi, Max Zhang, and Scott Adkins each gave Ip Man challenging fights, with Zhang even going on to anchor the spin-off Master Z: Ip Man Legacy. Still, for all the deserved popularity of Yen’s Ip Man movies guest starring Bruce Lee (played in adulthood by Danny Chan), Ip Man has been the subject of a significant number of martial arts films in the 21st century, including 2013’s The Grandmaster that used one cast member that would have been perfect against Yen.

As a competitive champion of kung fu sanda, kickboxing, and MMA, Cung Le has also brought his skills to martial arts films, with Le playing the central opponent of Ip Man (Tony Leung) in The Grandmaster‘s opening fight scene. What would have made Le such a great martial artist to bring into Yen’s Ip Man movies was partly Max Zhang having also been in The Grandmaster prior to boarding Ip Man 3 (following Donnie Yen’s initial reluctance towards Ip Man 3). Furthermore, Yen and Le’s early fight scene in the 2010 Hong Kong movie Bodyguards and Assassins shows a glimpse at what an Ip Man movie duel between them could have looked like.

A Donnie Yen-Cung Le Rematch Could’ve Been One Of Ip Man’s Best Battles

Le’s fight with Yen in Bodyguards and Assassins is the action highlight of the film, and would have enabled an Ip Man movie with Le’s involvement to market on a particular angle that martial arts fans love to see: cinematic rematches between martial arts stars. Following their first big-screen brawl in 2005’s Sha Po Lang (aka Kill Zone), Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung’s table-top kung fu match in Ip Man 2 homaged Jet Li’s Fearless and was pushed heavily for the rematch it was. Le’s background in the MMA world also could have given an Ip Man fight sequence with he and Yen another beneficial element.

In addition to his contributions to Wing Chun’s popularity through the Ip Man films, Donnie Yen is a well-known MMA enthusiast and helped bring MMA-based fight choreography into Hong Kong action movies with Sha Po Lang and Flash Point. A genuine MMA fighter like Cung Le in a fight with Ip Man could have given Yen a chance to bring the Wing Chun master’s skills into an MMA-style fight decades in advance. Even better, the young Bruce Lee witnessing the fight might have even planted some fictionalized seeds for Bruce Lee’s creation of Jeet Kune Do, often regarded as similar in principle to MMA.

The Ip Man movies remain martial arts classics across the board. Still, Donnie Yen and Cung Le not only delivered excellent action scenes in their individual Ip Man movies, but a quite exhilarating one together in Bodyguards and Assassins. The fact that Donnie Yen’s Ip Man movies never managed to work in a rematch between him and Cung Le is one of their few losses in their martial arts sequences.

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