Going into UFC Macau: Franklin vs Le, I openly and publicy feared for the safety of one aging fighter -- 40 year old Cung Le. After Le's KO of Franklin in less than 3 minutes, I'm both happy and sad to report that I was wrong. Cung Le did very little to convince me he should have been fighting, but he did manage to win the fight.
Le was clearly favoring his injured foot. He threw none of his trade mark side kicks, no spinning attacks, he didn't change his stance once. Instead Le strode into punching range and duked it out with the bigger man. This is exactly where I feared Le would get hurt.
Unfortunately for Rich Franklin, Le exposed his long-standing bad habit of throwing lazy low kicks while leaving his head in range for counters and an even more questionable chin.
Let's face it, Rich Franklin is 38 years old. He's 3-4 in his last 7 fights. He hasn't beaten a top 10 fighter since Yushin Okami back at UFC 72 in 2007. It's time for Rich to ask himself if he really wants to keep doing this.
Franklin had the misfortune of being a very good Middleweight in a division occupied by the greatest of all time -- Anderson Silva. Before Silva came to the UFC, Rich ruled the MW roost. After Silva beat him (badly) twice, Rich was consigned to a nether world of catch-weight fights, bouncing between 185, 195 and 205 pounds at the whim of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva.
Luke Thomas pointed out that Franklin's been making the same mistake he made against Le for a long time:
In light of yesterday's result at UFC on FUEL TV 6 where Rich Franklin was knocked out in the first round by Cung Le, something struck me about the way in which it ended. I don't mean that it ended suprisingly and spectacularly, although, that's true, too. I mean it looked familiar.
Sure enough, I looked back at Franklin's UFC middleweight title defense against David Loiseau from March of 2006 at UFC 58. In the middle of round three, Franklin fired a left middle kick. It landed (mostly), but Loiseau fired back and floored Franklin then the same way Le did yesterday.
The key difference between Loiseau's punch and Le's is not the side Franklin kicked. Both times he went with a left middle kick. It was that Loiseau first fired a right but missed, so immediately followed up with a left. Le, on the other hand, was able to land with the first punch he through: an overhand right.
No two punches are identical and one shouldn't read too much into yesterday's result, but the similarities are sufficient enough for me to inventory Franklin's ability to take punishment. His chin has never been one of MMA's best, but where it fell short Franklin made up for it in physical fitness and great recovery instincts. Now, though, even those traits or talents can't help him, at least not in the way they once did.