I am without a doubt the biggest Rich Franklin fan that lives in Hawaii. Never have I seen someone else who sports as many American Fighter walkout shirts as me. I have a few favorite fighters and I stick with them win or lose. Typically, when one of them loses I simply say "they'll get back on the saddle" and eagerly await their next battle in the cage. But with regret, I do have to declare that Rich Franklin should hang it up. With his loss to Cung Le, I was not stunned because he lost, but because of the fashion in which he lost.
Lets get one thing straight, that was no "lucky punch" by Cung Le. It was a legitimate hit. And I've also read some critique on how Franklin has never had the best chin. What I really saw was a fighter who is at the end of his "chin". Another thing to clarify is that Rich has one of the most durable chins. I've seen him tko'd by Anderson Silva, blitzed by Vitor Belfort and head kicked by Lyoto Machida. And none of those fighters have ever knocked Ace clean out to the point where he did not come back to his senses in the following minutes.
He has also took shots from some of the heaviest hitters in MMA HISTORY including guys like Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson. In his previous fight, Wanderlei nearly decapitated his with a vicious punch, but Rich was able to recover...sort of. What scared me after that fight was his statement that he didn't recall much of the middle rounds after the hit. Cung Le is by no means a ko artist with his hands and admits by his own right he needs to work on his boxing. Any tko from Cung comes by some sort of kick.
So what happened in China? Perhaps the story in in Brazil where he took that shot from Wanderlei. Every fighters chin will eventually give due to an accumulation of strikes. Such has been the case for many legends such as Liddell, Pulver and even Hughes(who had a decent chin). It is a combination of age and damage. I believe that shot from Silva was the last good shot he could take. Cung was not supposed to have that power and Rich has taken harder shots from better fighters. But his chin is now gone.
As pointed out by others, Rich has always tended to drop his hands (especially during kicks) and relied on fight I.Q and recovery as well as his chin. I hope that my hero Ace retires before he becomes a punch bad like Liddell did. It would be truly ironic for him to end in the same matter. A fighter riding out his last fights being brutally knocked from his senses. Because lets face it, Franklins knockout of Liddell probably wouldn't have happened had Chucks chin still been there. If you look at the strike Franklin used on Liddell and the strike Cung Le used on Franklin, they look fairly similar. Perhaps like they would not be the KO shot. But time catches everyone.
Thanks for the memories Rich. Thanks for the Inspiration. You love the sport, I hate seeing you lose. But make no mistake, for as long as you fight and way after you retire, my American Fighter shirts will always be proudly worn.