"Breakfast at Wimbledon" never had a finish like this.
Cung Le woke up bleary-eyed fans watching back in the United States when he put Rich Franklin to sleep with a big right hand in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 6 in Macau on Saturday.
The slam-bang knockout put an exclamation mark on a reasonable morning of television viewing over coffee and bagels. And though the card didn't do much that will make a lasting impact on the company in a grand scheme of things, there were still several takeaways from the event worth a note:
1. Has "Ace" played his final hand?
Would anyone blame Rich "Ace" Franklin if he chose to walk away from his mixed martial arts career after his one-punch knockout loss to Cung Le on Saturday? The former UFC middleweight champion had talked about trying to make one more run up the 185-pound rankings. Any fighter can get caught, but if Le, a 40-year old with a bad foot, can stop him, that doesn't bode well for Franklin's chances against the likes of Chris Weidman or Tim Boetsch.
Given the sort of competitor we know Franklin to be, my best guess is that once Franklin takes some time off, he'll come to realize he doesn't want to go out the same way he finished off Chuck Liddell, and six months to a year down the road he'll come off the bench and fill in when someone has to drop out of a main event or co-headline fight. But if this is the last we've seen of Franklin (who is now 5-5 dating back to his rematch loss to Anderson Silva in 2007) in the Octagon, Saturday's loss doesn't diminish from a distinguished career in which he was both a worthy champion and a fighter who took the line "I'll fight anyone, anywhere" to heart.
2. Knockout of the year?
What constitutes the knockout of the year? Is it sheer spectacularity? Technical execution? Does it matter whether it comes by way of a punch, kick, knee or elbow? Do the stakes of the fight in which the KO occurred count, and for that matter, if it is a favorite following through in finishing an underdog, does that detract from its impact?
Realistically, it's probably a little bit of all of the above. But I'm not sure any was more unexpected this year than Le's brutal overhand right which left Franklin cold. Going in, conventional wisdom had the bout pegged as one likely to be an entertaining slugfest right up until Franklin finished Le. That obviously didn't happen. The combination of the punch's perfect execution and its sheer surprise value puts this on the short list of knockouts of the year.
Whether that's enough to push this past, among others, Edson Barboza's spinning back kick finish of Terry Etim, Jose Aldo Jr.'s running knee against Chad Mendes, or Anthony Johnson's angry, post-eye-poke blast against D.J. Linderman remains to be seen. But it certainly belongs on the highlight reel.
3. Don't count Kim out
It's been awhile since South Korean star Dong Hyun Kim has looked like the fighter who won five of his first six UFC fights (the other was a questionable split-decision loss that turned into a no-contest when Karo Parisyan tested positive for unapproved painkillers). But fighting in Macau meant Kim didn't have to travel halfway around the world to fight, and Kim looked like a man possessed in his UFC on Fuel TV 6 fight against Paulo Thiago.
"The Stun Gun" dictated the pace from the get-go and spent a large portion of the bout controlling Thiago on the ground. He nearly scored submissions at the end of each of the first two rounds and he looked fresh right up until the fight's closing seconds. After the card, Kim said he wanted a rematch with Demian Maia, who defeated Kim in less than a minute at UFC 148 when Kim suffered a fluke injury. Maia, who has since defeated Rick Story, is not likely to want to fight Kim again any time soon, but regardless, Kim re-established that he's still a force to be reckoned with at 170 pounds.
4. Maybe count Silva and Nedkov out
Hours after the fact, I'm still not quite sure whether Thiago Silva's third-round comeback win over Stanislav Nedkov says more about Silva or Nedkov. The ship has sailed on the idea the Silva will ever be a top contender at 205 pounds. If anything, this win establishes him as a gatekeeper. Nedkov, meanwhile, looked completely gassed and almost relieved when he got caught in the arm triangle which finished the bout. Really, the less said about this fight, the better.
5. Does anyone know the Cantonese characters for "Don't leave it in the hands of the judges?"
If anyone was literally rather than figuratively scratching their head over the judges' calls on Saturday, they would have ended up with a bloody scalp by the end of the card. First we had Alex "Bruce Leroy" Caceres' split decision win over late sub Monotobu Tezuka. Judges Aaron Chatfield and Mark Collett both had this one 30-27 Caceres, but Bass Singh had the first two rounds for Tezuka.
Then there was Takeya Mizugaki's win over Jeff Hougland. It was, by most accounts, a well-earned decision win for the veteran Mizugaki. But while two of the judges had the bout 30-27, Collett decided both rounds two and three were 10-8, giving Mizugaki a 30-25 score. And finally, there was the one that didn't end up mattering. Most on Twitter had Nedkov up two rounds on Silva heading into the third round, though some had the fight at 1-1. Chatfield, Singh and Collett, though, all saw it 2-0 for Silva.
All in all, this was one of those cards which remind you that sometimes all the screaming on Twitter is actually correct.
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