Alrighty folks, today we’re kicking off a new post series I’d like to call Villain Showdown.
In this series of posts we will be taking 2 classic villains of cinema history and pit them against one another across a great number of criteria, ranging from an examination of the devilish deeds that made them the historic villains they are today, to answering the all important question of “who would win in a fight?”
Anyway, enough with the mission statement crap, let’s get on with the first match-up; a contest of the beastly “silent giants” of 80’s fighting cinema, Ivan Drago vs. Chong Li!
Played by Dolph Lundgren, and perhaps the most formidable opponent Rocky Balboa ever fought in his lengthy career, communist Russian boxer Ivan Drago stand today as perhaps the prototypical “silent giant” of 80’s fighting cinema.
Not to be confused with the popular "big ugly dude" trope of action cinema.
A man of few words, Drago’s immense stature, Herculean form, Olympic class boxing skills, and death dealing fists nevertheless secured his place in the annals of film history.
Hailing from South Korea and practicing an unknown martial art, Chong Li owned the Kumite tournament for years until meeting defeat at hands of Frank Dux in the events of Bloodsport in 1988.
Malicious and without mercy, Bolo Yeung’s Chong Li dispensed of the lower-tier competition in the tournament with extreme prejudice, often going out his way to seriously injure and maim, or in one instance; kill his opponents.
Equally as silent as Ivan Drago, Chong Li’s formidable fighting skills, broad and muscular physique, cruel nature, and willingness to bend the rules of the Kumite to his advantage, make him one of the more memorable villains of martial arts cinema.
Criteria #1: Beastly Evil-Doings:
Punched Apollo Creed’s brain out his ass inside of 2 rounds, insulted America’s honor by demanding that Rocky fight him in the USSR, cheated by shootin’ the ‘roids, wore a hideous white leotard, stole Rocky’s wife, (not Adrian. Brigitte Nielsen) was Russian and therefore evil in every capacity known to man.
Utterly BEASTED on the lower-tier fighters, put his heel through Ogre from Revenge of the Nerd’s brain box, stole Ogre’s headband, killed a random and grossly out-sized Chinese man, cheated by throwing poison powder in Van Damme’s eyes, cheated by using the referee as a human shield, was Korean and therefore smelled of kimchi and was evil in every capacity known to man, particularly in matters pertaining to games of StarCraft.
Winner: Ivan Drago
Drago killed Apollo.
Really, that’s the only thing that matters in this particular argument.
While one could argue that Chong Li was definitely more evil by nature, as evidenced by the joyful expressions seen on his face whenever he was wrecking people’s shit; the simple fact remains that Drago killed an AMERICAN FUCKING HERO that was very likely 2 days from retirement.
Chong Li tried his damndest to live up to the villainous blueprint laid down by Drago in Rocky IV, however the thickness of Ogre’s skull prevented what otherwise would’ve been a meaningful death in the history of action cinema.
Sorry random Chinese guy, but your neck just isn’t worth the same as Carl Weathers’ mini-fro…
Criteria #2: Tools Of The Trade
An Olympic class amateur boxer who fought his first professional bout against Apollo Creed, Drago was the finest heavyweight boxer in the USSR.
Bearing an emotionless persona an trained in a private, scientifically guided training facility, Drago’s physical conditioning and boxing skills were trained to perfection using state-of-the-art training methodologies.
At no less than 6 feet 4 inches in height, and bearing a punch of over 2,000 psi; Drago’s boxing proved sufficient to end the life of former heavyweight champion Apollo Creed inside of 6 minutes.
Despite knocking him down no less than 7 times during his contest with Rocky Balboa, Drago was put to the mat for a 10 count in the 15th and final round, thusly putting an end to his known professional boxing record.
A martial artist from South Korea, Chong Li dominated the Kumite for several years preceding the events of Bloodsport.
Using an unknown fighting system that made extensive use of his superior size and strength, Chong Li was nevertheless a superb and wholly complete fighter.
Chong Li was known to hold numerous records in the Kumite, not the least of which being the record for the the fastest KO in the tournament history, a record that would ultimately be broken by Frank Dux within the same 1988 tournament.
Quite literally, deadly; with fist and foot, Chong Li was known to have killed a competitor in the previous Kumite, going on to do the same to semi-finalist Chuan Ip Mung in the 1988 tournament.
That's right, I know my shit...
Despite this, Li was largely outmatched by Frank Dux in the early goings of their bout, only really gaining an edge when he intentionally blinded him with poison powder.
Overconfident in the handling of his blind opponent, Chong Li was ultimately felled by a series of aerial spin kicks to the face.
Never losing consciousness despite the incredible number of blows landed on him during the course of the fight, Chong Li ultimately submitted at the hands of Frank Dux.
Winner: Ivan Drago
While both men are definitely uber-beasts from a purely physical standpoint, the fact remains that Drago is an uber-beast that could kill you dead while wearing 8-ounce gloves.
Chong Li was by all means a killer by nature, however the one kill of his we were fortunate to bear witness to involved him taking advantage of a near helpless opponent.
Drago’s killing of Apollo Creed, however savage, and indeed, necessary to the plot of the film; was by all intents and purposes incidental to his freakish strength.
Though one could argue that Rocky was equally responsible…
In any case, it should be said that these guys were both pretty close in this particular criteria.
Both displayed incredible tenacity and durability by taking a huge amount of punishment during their respective bouts, however the real tie-breaker proved to be Drago’s endurance over the course of 15 rounds.
Given that Drago cried like a little bitch before going down though, one could argue that Chong Li was indeed the tougher individual, however in my book, 5 minutes with the Van-Damme-inator doesn’t really compare to 45 with Sly Stallone, even if Van Damme’s got his eyes bugged out and is seconds away from snapping your neck…
Criteria #3: FAILURES
Foolishly discarded EVERY CONCEIVABLE ADVANTAGE available to him by choosing to slug it out in close quarters with Balboa throughout most of the fight, in particular the 15th and final round.
Cried pathetic anti-man tears moments before succumbing to the ferocious man-fury of Rocky’s fists.
Let hubris get in the way of his victory over Frank Dux by allowing him to recover during a pivotal moment in the fight.
Winner: Chong Li
Just to be clear, “winning” this particular criteria refers to one failing less than their opponent, meaning “winning” in this case, is actually a good thing.
Chong Li won this one hands down.
Despite his monstrous appearance, Chong Li proved himself to be a clever fighter with surprisingly very little FAIL present in his character.
Really, the only fuck-up he every really made in the entirety of Bloodsport was in giving Van Damme 3 fucking minutes to meditate on/flashback to his past training, thereby allowing him to win the fight.
Drago, as evidenced by his far larger FAIL section, made more than a few mistakes in his bout with Rocky Balboa.
Displaying overconfidence by fighting Balboa’s fight, and weakness by eliciting distinctly un-manly, Russian Woman Tears on his way down to the canvas, Drago’s strength of character was somewhat questionable.
Who Would Win In A Fight?:
This one’s kind of a toughy.
As evidenced by his winning ways in most of the criteria listed above, Drago is one helluva’ beast, however Li is no slouch and arguably bears the stronger character between the 2 fighters.
Assuming that their contest would be a full contact affair, I could see Drago pressing an early advantage with his power and ranginess; however unless he flattened The Chong outright, I don’t think this phase of the fight would last very long.
As mentioned earlier, Drago displayed a willingness to wade into deep water with his opponents, fighting by their terms; and if this were to be the case with Chong Li, I could see things turning very ugly for Drago should he choose to trade blows with him.
Chong Li’s very complete repertoire of attacks would likely afford him a number of options in handling Drago, not the least of which being vicious kicks and joint locks to the extremities.
Despite the huge disparity in the breadth of the 2 fighters move sets, entirely a result of Drago’s conventional boxing training; the real crux in the matter of comparing the 2 lies in Chong Li’s unerring tenacity.
The Chong took one helluva’ beating from Van Damme, and never once seemed to slow or weaken during the course of the fight.
Perhaps more importantly though, he displayed a great deal of confidence and pluck when knocked to the mat by Ogre, a fighter who was very likely the stronger man in that particular contest.
Drago on the other hand, was pensive in the first few minutes of his fight with Apollo, and later showed weakness of character in his bout with Rocky Balboa, both fighters who were known to be physically inferior to him.
This disparity in maturity and strength of character, combined with the fact that I’d be willing to bet The Chong would go out of his way to fight dirty; seems to indicate that he would be able “figure out” Drago at some point in the proceedings.
Besides, Drago cried like a bitch…
Winner: Chong Li, On Account Of Experience And Toughness
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