Photo by Tracy Lee via Combat Lifestyle
MMAmania's Brian Hemminger takes a closer look at the UFC Macau main event between former middleweight champions Rich Franklin and Cung Le. What's the key to victory for both men? Find out inside
Record: 29-6 (1 no contest overall), 14-5 in the UFC
How he got here: I'm sure you've heard the story by now, but Rich Franklin was a former math teacher in Ohio before he caught the mixed martial arts bug and he caught it bad. He quickly realized he was pretty damn good at cagefighting and after going unbeaten in his first 12 fights, he made his UFC debut against Evan Tanner in 2003, scoring a TKO victory.
"Ace" returned to the UFC for good in 2005, demolishing former legend Ken Shamrock in the main event of the original Ultimate Fighter finale. This earned him a title shot where he not only beat Evan Tanner again but would go on to defend his championship twice.
Then of course, Anderson Silva came along. "The Spider" destroyed Franklin with brutal knees and hasn't looked back. Since losing a rematch against Silva in his hometown, Franklin has bounced around weight classes, basically fighting whoever the UFC needed him to fight and headlining pay-per-views whenever they needed someone to step in.
Franklin retired Chuck Liddell back in 2010 with a violent first round knockout despite having broken his arm in the fight and has been sidelined for well over a year after a should injury following a loss to Forrest Griffin. He was set for a bout against Cung Le originally at UFC 148, but was called away to main event UFC 147 in a rematch against Wanderlei Silva.
Franklin defeated Silva after five hard-fought rounds, and the bout against Le was rescheduled in the more appropriate setting of Macau.
How he gets it done: Franklin is one of the most active and accurate strikers in the UFC middleweight division. Expect to see Franklin try to utilize footwork in the stand-up and put constant pressure on Le. He'll be the bigger man in the cage and if he can keep Le on the defensive, he'll never give the Vietnamese-American the space he needs to utilize his signature kicking offense.
With a five round fight, Franklin needs to stay on Le and wear him down, never letting up the pace. Le is 40 years old and conditioning has been an issue for him. He's also had to deal with a bad foot injury before this fight so who knows if he was able to get in as much roadwork and cardio that he normally would. If Franklin can keep a high pace, throwing actively and making Le work, he'll make the former Strikeforce middleweight champ fade.
Record: 8-2 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Wanderlei Silva (UFC 139), Scott Smith (Strikeforce: Evolution)
How he got here: Cung Le has been incredibly successful in every athletic endeavor he's ever attempted. He got into martial arts at the age of 10 with Tae Kwon Do and that's where his strong background in kicking originated. He's not a one-trick pony though. He was a solid junior college wrestler, went 17-0 as a kickboxer and was undefeated professionally in the martial art of Sanshao as well, winning several championships in that sport.
In 2006, Le transitioned to mixed martial arts, making his debut in Strikeforce and knocking out his first three opponents in the first round. After improving to 5-0, he would take on the legendary Frank Shamrock, who promised to stand toe-to-toe with him for the Strikeforce middleweight title. He won the fight after Shamrock's arm was broken from blocking a heavy kick and he had been dominant up until that point as well.
He would vacate his title to get in the movie business but after over a year away from the sport, he returned for a non-title affair with Scott Smith. In that fight, he hit Scott Smith with everything he had for two rounds but in typical Scott Smith fashion, he would score a crazy comeback knockout to hand Le his first professional defeat.
Le would avenge his loss six months later with a dominant destruction of Smith, finishing the fight with a brutal spinning back kick to the body and following up with punches. He again left for filming obligations but when the UFC purchased Strikeforce earlier this year, the possibilities of competing in the Octagon was just too much to ignore and he signed with them.
Le's Octagon debut didn't go quite as planned against Wanderlei Silva, losing via second round knockout, but he looked strong in the first round. He bounced back nicely against former title challenger Patrick Cote in his last bout, winning a unanimous decision. Now, he's slated for his first UFC main event and he'll be facing a former champion in Franklin.
How he gets it done: Cung Le needs to be aggressive but keep his distance. He's got as wide an array of kicking attacks as any fighter of all time and he's not afraid to use them. His biggest concern is keeping Franklin on the outside and if he wants to do this, his punches are not going to cut it. He'll need to use his side kicks and push kicks like a jab, keeping "Ace" in range of his other kicking attacks.
If he can keep Franklin on the outside, he'll be wide open for utilizing his spinning back kicks, roundhouse kicks and body kicks but he also needs to be looking to go high as one clean connection with a kick directed at Franklin's head could be lights out.
If Le is going to throw a punch, it should be something crazy like the spinning backfist that almost put Wanderlei Silva's lights out. He's got crazy flexibility and can actually go high with a crazy wheel kick from only a couple feet away. This is something that Franklin may not see coming despite his recent trip to Singapore to train against Le's style.
If Franklin tries to get inside, Le needs to use his wrestling and Sanshao background to pummel under, get some underhooks and either push off, back away or even slam him to the canvas with authority. Time is not on Le's side so he has to try to get in as much offense as he can early and if he hurts Franklin, he can't give him even a smidgen of an opening.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is conditioning. Le is used to finishing fights quickly and he's a very aggressive first round fighter, but he's been known to fade. In both of his career losses, he got in a ton of offense early and then wilted. Those were three round fights. In a five round fight, Le is going to have to fight an extremely measured approach if he wants to potentially last all 25 minutes. That will not be easy against one of the most active fighters with the best conditioning in the UFC like Franklin.
Bottom Line: This fight is going to be very entertaining for as long as it lasts. Franklin is not going to give in and neither will Le. Both men are aggressive, throw with power and Le's wild offensive attack is always exciting. Whether this fight lasts 25 minutes of 25 seconds, it should be very fun. Expect a knockout at some point from one of these men. It's very unlikely this one goes the distance.
Who will come out on top at UFC Macau? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!
Which middleweight veteran will win the UFC Macau main event later today?
Rich Franklin (12 votes)
Cung Le (20 votes)
32 total votes