Cung Le's impressive and surprising knockout of Rich Franklin at UFC on FUEL 6 was undoubtedly the highlight of the promotion's first outing in China, but in the long term it could lead to the departure of another important name as former middleweight champ Franklin takes time to mull over his future.
The decision for Franklin could possibly come down to a few things. First, whether he thinks cutting down to 185 for the first time since 2008 impacted his ability to take a punch. Second, how important it is for him to make one last run at a title. And third, whether the paydays are still worth the pain.
As a bright, eloquent man who could easily verbalize the intricacies of MMA, Franklin served a major role as one of the UFC's ambassadors as the promotion blasted into the mainstream sports discussion. Couple those efforts with his title run, and he has a guaranteed place in the sport's history. But more recently, in the cage he hasn't been able to do better than alternating wins and losses over his last eight fights, making no real headway but also giving little ground.
While some fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes heard many calls for their retirements in the months and years before actually hanging up their gloves, Franklin hasn't suffered that same fate, so there will be little pressure for him to call it quits. The decision will have to come from within. Who knows what he will do? Fighters always feel like they have a little more to give, and even the educated ones are likely to put aside reason and decide with their hearts. It may not be the best way to reach a conclusion, but when that same stimulus pushed them to reach such great heights in the past, who can blame them?
On to the predictions …
At 40, Le has fashioned dual careers with parallel lines of success. Perhaps the ability to leave MMA behind for short stretches while making movies gives him the breaks necessary to heal, and the absences from MMA reignite his fires to train when he returns. Truth be told, Le didn't look fantastic up until the knockout right hook, but then again, it was only over two minutes into the fight. He could have been pacing himself, or he could have been taking it easy on his injured foot, which was less than 100 percent. Either way, I expect him to take a bit of a break after fighting twice in the last half of 2012.
Prediction: He faces Chris Leben sometime in 2013 if Leben gets past Karlos Vemola later this year.
There's a lot to guess with Franklin. Will he retire? If not, does he stay at 185 or go back to 205? Will he want an extended period of time off to make these decisions? His future is mostly up in the air, so it's not fair to really guess what might be next for him. We'll just wish Mr. Franklin a happy holiday season and wait to hear from him.
Let's be honest, Silva didn't perform all that well for the first two rounds of his bout with Stanislav Nedkov until he saw the exhaustion in his foe's eyes, and from there he went into assassin mode to get the finish. He gets credit for bringing superior cardio to the cage and for scoring his first win in three years, but it's hard to project him back into the top 10 at this point.
Prediction: The Brandon Vera rematch is still out there. Let's make it happen.
After 13 pro bouts, Nedkov finally tasted defeat. While trying to finish Silva late in the second with a barrage of strikes, he inadvertently finished himself by expending his energy reserves and was easy pickings in the third. For Nedkov, it's a correctable error, and for observers, it's hard to be too disappointed in a fighter who goes for broke in aiming for a finish but falls short. At 5-foot-11, he always appears too small for light-heavyweight but manages to give everyone hell win or lose. It will be interesting to see if he stays at 205 or considers a drop. The guess is that he remains where he is.
Prediction: He faces Igor Pokrajac
Dong Hyun Kim
Coming off a bizarre loss, Kim put a thorough beating on the ultra-tough Paulo Thiago, out-landing him by a ridiculous 76-4 count according to FightMetric. Kim's KO loss to Carlos Condit remains his only legitimate defeat, so he's due a matchup with a surging welterweight.
Prediction: He faces Siyar Bahadurzada
Gomi scraped by Mac Danzig in a split-decision, making it two straight in the octagon. We already know the UFC is returning to Japan's Saitama Super Arena on March 3, so Gomi's a lock for that show barring any injury issues.
Prediction: He faces Jacob Volkmann
There were no real octagon jitters for Tuck, who was impressive in defeating Tiequan Zhang despite Zhang having home-field advantage. Tuck certainly gives off the vibe of a top-level athlete with his power and speed, and his ground game certainly looks top-shelf as well. His striking needs some refinement but the future looks bright for the Guam native.
Prediction: UFC keeps him on the slow track with a fight against a new signee
Lineker is fun to watch, a fast flyweight with power and the willingness to anchor himself in the middle of the cage and trade. At 22 years old, he's just notched his first UFC win and looks to make a quick rise up the still-forming flyweight division.
Prediction: He faces John Moraga