Not many thought Cung Le was going to beat Rich Franklin, and I’m sure even fewer thought the former Strikeforce middleweight champion would knockout Franklin in under three minutes. Many, including myself, thought that the main event of the UFC’s debut in China would see Franklin get inside the range of Le’s kicks and win an easy decision or finish the fight late. But with one countered low kick, any chance of Franklin victory went out the window, leaving Le standing victorious over a crumpled Franklin. The win, the biggest of Le’s career, puts him in an interesting position at forty years of age.
But Franklin, the former UFC Middleweight champion, is in an even more interesting position. At 38 years old and with two loss decisive losses to current champ Anderson Silva, Franklin moved back to 185 in search of one last title run. The Le knockout has to change those plans. With the loss, any hope of one last title run is out the window. Franklin now has two options: retirement or simply take fights so he can put off his eventual retirement. If Franklin does decide to keep on fighting, his options are limited. As a true legend, Franklin cannot be fighting nobody’s, whether he fights 205 or 185. And by my estimation, the biggest bouts potentially available are against Michael Bisping at 185, Shogun Rua at 205, or a rematch against Dan Henderson at 205. Granted, all of those would take a loss to be possible, but at this time, those are the only bouts I see worth Franklin’s time.
Here are some other bouts to be booked in the wake of UFC on Fuel 6.
Cung Le versus Chris Leben – Karlos Vemola winner
At 40 years of age and nearing the end of his career, Le is not a title contender. He should be placed in fun matchups that will allow him to showcase his Sanshou-based striking. If the returning Leben beats Vemola at UFC 155, a bout between the two would be sure to create fireworks. A backup plan, in case Vemola wins would be soon to be UFC fighter Lorenz Larkin, who like Le, has a stable of creative kicks in his arsenal.
Takanori Gomi versus Sam Stout-John Makdessi winner
Gomi, in the best performance in this UFC career, beat Mac Danzig by split decision in Macao. While he is no longer the feared KO artist he was in Pride, there are still fun fights available for him. Stout and Makdessi, who fight this weekend at UFC 154, would provide a fun matchup for the “Fireball Kid”. If all parties are healthy, the bout should be booked for the UFC’s March return to Japan.
Dong Hyun Kim versus John Hathaway
“Stun Gun” Kim has been calling for a rematch with Demian Maia, whom he lost to at UFC 148 due to a freak muscle spasm. That fight, while still interesting, should not be rebooked at this time. Maia is riding high at 170, and seems destined to get a big name in his next bout. Kim will have settle for someone like Hathaway, who has underrated takedown defense. Both are big 170ers, and a bout between the two would determine which one is truly ready for the upper echelon of the division.
Thiago Silva versus Ryan Bader
For the first time since a 2009 win over Keith Jardine, Silva entered the win column with his submission win over Stanislav Nedkov in Macao. Although his days as a light heavyweight contender are long gone, Silva still serves a place as a gatekeeper. Bader, coming off his first ever KO loss to Lyoto Machida, still has time to develop into a contender. A pairing between the two makes sense for the first quarter of 2013.
Takeya Mizugaki versus Raphael Assuncao
Since joining ZUFFA, Mizugaki has not won back-to-back bouts at any point in his career. He has quality skills, but struggles against elite completion like Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles. But even though he has not come up victorious against the elite, only Faber has totally dominated him. A pairing with Assuncao, who recently dropped down to bantamweight, would give him a good chance to fight someone at his level before venturing to upper echelon of the division again.