Franklin, who hasn't fought since last February at UFC 126, will look to rebound from the decision loss to Forrest Griffin as he makes his middleweight return. Le will also be looking to bounce back from a recent defeat at the hands—and knees—of Wanderlei Silva at UFC 139.
Let's take a look at the head-to-toe breakdown of this exciting bout between former champs.
Franklin is one of the more underrated strikers in the UFC's middleweight division, as his American style of kickboxing has been overshadowed by the likes of Anderson Silva and others.
Surprisingly, the former champion has very powerful punches and kicks, earning Franklin 15 career technical knockout or knockout wins out of 28 total career victories.
Le, however, is on another level as a striker as the Sanshou star offers a wide array of creative attacks that Franklin just doesn't have in his arsenal. Each of Le's career wins have come via technical knockout or knockout, a testament to his significantly more powerful kicks.
A former junior college state champion, Le actually has an extensive wrestling background, even if it isn't always seen in the cage.
Combining his wrestling with his Sanshou, Le uses interesting take downs such as leg sweeps and throws. He also has very solid take down defense, a huge advantage as Le always looks to keep the fight standing.
Franklin is a solid grappler, but isn't widely regarded as a top wrestler, but his years of going up against top level wrestlers like Dan Henderson does give him valuable experience.
While he hasn't shown off much of his submission skills inside the Octagon, Rich Franklin is actually a solid jiu-jitsu fighter with great submissions. Franklin boasts 10 submission victories out of 28 total wins, although only one has come with the UFC.
A brown belt under Jorge Gurgel, Franklin has also trained with the likes of Matt Hume to solidify his ground game.
Le's skills on the ground have yet to be seen, so Franklin takes this one.
Both Franklin and Le have similar builds and levels of conditioning. Le has a more athletic physique and may have a slight edge in terms of strength, but other than that, these two fighters are pretty much even.
While both fighters have been in the fight game for a long time, Franklin has faced a higher level of competition over the years.
As a former UFC champion, Franklin has faced the best of the best in the sport including Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva. While he hasn't always come out victorious, Franklin has definitely given these legends a run for their money.
Le's experience differs greatly as he came from a kickboxing background prior to his MMA debut. While Le has defeated the likes of Frank Shamrock and nearly defeated Wanderlei Silva, having only nine MMA bouts compared to Franklin's 35 is a huge difference.
Le: After suffering a brutal defeat at the hands of Wanderlei Silva, it will be interesting to see how Le bounces back from the loss. Franklin is a more technical fighter than Silva and should make for a better match-up in the stand-up department.
The key for Le is to keep the fight standing, using his unorthodox strikes to baffle Franklin while avoiding the ground. While Le's wrestling may be better than Franklin's, I doubt that the former Strikeforce champ would want to get into a grappling war with "Ace," who has a solid BJJ background.
Also, Le needs to avoid the clinch and use his distance as a clinch battle, or war against the cage will be an advantage for Franklin.
Franklin: In the past, Franklin has had trouble against top tier strikers, having lost to Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort. Le may not have the same skill sets as these formerly mentioned fighters, but his Sanshou style will pose a serious problem for Franklin.
If he chooses to keep the fight standing, Franklin needs to make it a dog fight and really test Le's chin, which has come into question after his losses to Wanderlei Silva and Scott Smith. If he can't keep it close and work off the cage or in the clinch, Franklin needs to take the fight to the ground, where he will have a shot at a submission.
This battle of former champions is actually quite interesting when one considers the skill sets that Le and Franklin bring to the table.
Le has an advantage in the striking due to his unorthodox kickboxing style, utilizing powerful spinning kicks and great movement. Franklin, however, can neutralize this if he closes the distance and turns the fight into a dog fight, as a technical battle will work in Le's favor.
On the ground, Le has an edge in terms of pure wrestling and take down ability, but Franklin has a solid submission game and has a real shot at putting Le away if it goes to the ground.
In the end, however, the difference will be Le's ability to dictate the pace of the fight and where it goes. As long as he stays technical and keeps his wits about him, he should be able to finish Franklin and earn himself his first UFC victory.
Prediction: Le via knockout (Round 2)