I didn't see that coming. Did you?
If you can honestly tell me that you predicted that Cung Le would knock Rich Franklin into yesteryear—and not with one of his trademark spinning kicks, but with a punch—well, you and I need to stay in touch, because I could use your help in predicting fights.
The truth is that Le's shocking first-round knockout of Franklin could not be predicted. It's one of those crazy mixed martial arts moments that comes along a few times a year and renders all of the detailed pre-fight analysis we do completely useless. It's also one of the major reasons we're fans of the sport; because, at the end of the day, you really never know what's going to happen.
But now, it's time to deal with the fallout and take a look at what might be next for some of the winners and losers from UFC on Fuel 6: Franklin vs. Le.
I don't know if Cung Le is going to retire. If he decided to hang it up now, after finishing off Rich Franklin in a way few have ever done, well, you couldn't blame him if he decided to go out on top. After all, Le wasn't expected to make much noise in the UFC, and yet here he stands with two consecutive wins over tough opposition. Retirement and more devotion to his movie career might just sound like a pretty good option.
I hope he doesn't retire, at least not yet. I don't think Le will ever be a title contender, but it sure is fun to watch him fight, and the UFC needs those kinds of people. I'd like to see him paired up with guys who will exchange with him on the feet, because you might get a few special moments here and there if Le's able to bring the old martial arts magic to the surface.
That's why I like the idea of a fight between Le and Brian Stann. Yeah, Stann is coming off a loss in his last fight, but he's still got a high enough profile, and a pairing with Le would make a good free television main event or even a featured bout on a pay per view. And I think you'd see their striking tendencies mesh pretty well, delivering a truly exciting fight where there's a pretty good chance it ends by knockout.
And hey, if Le happens to beat Stann? That'll be three wins in a row, with two of them coming against fairly big names in the UFC. Remember the days when everyone wanted to see Le face Anderson Silva? I'm not opposed to it now, even with Le advancing in years. It's a pipe dream, to be sure, but it's not an offensive one.
You can put Franklin in the same boat as Le: I'm not sure if he's going to continue fighting, or if he's going to decide that it might be better to go out now, before one horrific knockout loss turns into a string of them. Franklin should know better than anyone what it looks like when a fighter has stayed in the cage past his expiration date; he is, after all, the guy that ended Chuck Liddell's career with a short hook.
I'm not saying Franklin needs to retire. Not in the slightest. I'm just saying that if he does decide to hang up the small gloves, I'll understand why.
If he does stick around, however, I've got the perfect next fight. I'm under the assumption that Strikeforce will fold in January, which means a lot of its fighters will move over to the UFC. That would open up Franklin for a bout with Tim Kennedy. The former Strikeforce contender is coming off a loss to Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, but he's deserving of a semi-high profile fight for his UFC debut.
Franklin is the perfect opponent.
Thiago Silva has always been one of my favorite fighters to watch. I couldn't tell you why. It's probably because he's utterly terrifying, sporting what my colleague Matt Roth calls a "murder face." That's about the most apt description I've heard yet for Silva's serial killer demeanor.
Despite his scary visage, I've long given up on the idea of Silva being a contender. I think he's fallen directly into a gatekeeper role, a fighter to test up and coming young prospects as they make their way to the top of the division.
Jimi Manuwa is one such prospect. He crushed Kyle Kingsbury in his UFC debut with the sort of terrifying striking that we don't see all that often at light heavyweight. And on top of that, you'd get guaranteed violence when Manuwa gets in the cage with Silva, because it's almost a certainty that both guys would want to stand and trade punches.
I think folks are starting to realize that Dong Hyun Kim is a lot better than people generally give him credit for.
Paulo Thiago is a very good grappler, and Kim made him look like an amateur, controlling him on the ground for the entirety of 15 minutes with ease. There were very few moments where Thiago looked anything but completely lost, and that's all due to Kim's excellent ground control.
For his next trick, I'm sending Kim back into a rematch with Demian Maia. Yeah, we just saw this fight. But it ended with a fluke injury to Kim. Nothing was proven and nothing was settled. And more importantly, we didn't get to see the grappling battle that I wanted to see.
Let's run it back one more time, and hope it goes down without freak injuries this time around.
Takanori Gomi's performance against Mac Danzig was his most impressive since debuting in the UFC. That's saying something, because most people—myself included, I must admit—had written off Gomi as washed up and past his prime. It turns out that Gomi can still hand in an effective fight when he needs to.
I'm dipping back into the Strikeforce well with this one and matching up Gomi with K.J. Noons. Yeah, Noons lost his last fight in March, but he's still a name-value fighter in need of a decent opponent when he debuts in the UFC. And plus, it's another chance to see two dudes get in the cage and sling punches at each other with abandon.
I'm always game for that kind of fight.