Full Contact Fighter’s “The Daily Takedown:” Just For Kicks, UFC Should Book Cung Le vs. Anderson Silva; and Why Franklin Choked
By Joshua Molina
When it comes to fighting, sometimes you can over-respect someone.
In the awkward buildup to the UFC in China show headlined by Cung Le vs. Rich Franklin, Le and Franklin spent 100 percent of their time talking about how much they “respected” each other.
There was no trash talk. Both guys essentially talked about how honored they were to fight someone of each other’s caliber.
The love-fest felt contrived. It’s one thing to respect your competitor. It’s another to be down-right milquetoast in the promotion of your fight.
So by the time the 40-year-old Le and the 38-year-old Franklin stepped inside the cage Saturday in China, it was hard to know, or care, who would win. For Franklin, the amount of “respect” he showed for Le clearly backfired.
Highly favored, Franklin choked. He got knocked out by a Le, a guy with vicious kicks, but who isn’t known for fierce power in his hands.
Franklin pretty much threw away his chances of making another run at a title shot by coming out slow, overly methodical, and showing too much respect for his opponent. Le came into the fight with a bad foot, looking a bit thicker around the middle than usual, and as a guy with a lot less experience inside the cage.
Franklin looked gaunt coming in to the fight. Perhaps the move down from Light Heavyweight zapped him of some of his energy.
Although Franklin started the fight OK, throwing combinations, he looked like he was sparring, not fighting a guy who you don’t want to stand with. As even a fighter like Scott Smith knows, the best way to beat Le is to close the distance. Franklin looked like at any minute he was ready to touch gloves and hug Le, like you do at the end of the fight.
He had no bad intentions or mean streak behind his blows. And he paid for it.
Le, on the other hand, deserves high praise. Going into the fight with a bad foot, he could have pulled out, but chose not to. At 40-years-old, he knows that opportunities for big fights don’t come very often.
Le also brings something refreshing to the sport of MMA. He’s brutally honest, but not in a trash-talking sort of way. Le knows that among most MMA competitors, anything can happen in a fight. He knows that on his best day he can beat anyone in the world. And on his worst day, anyone in the world can beat him.
Le appeared absolutely stunned with his victory, evening acknowledging in the post-fight interview that it was “a lucky punch.”
And even though he’s 40, (which is old for a fighter), he’s about as young of a 40 as you can be. He’s 9-2 inside the cage and 2-1 in the UFC.
It’s one thing when you are 40 years old and have been knocked out and beat up several times. Le hasn’t been in as many wars as a guy like Franklin, so Le’s 40-year-old body, might be younger than his age.
Le, if he wants it, can fight another year or so. He’s got a lot going for him.
He could be the best kickboxer in the business. Just possessing kickboxing skills is sometimes enough. He didn’t even have to connect with any major kicks against Franklin on Saturday, but clearly Franklin was aware and “respectful” of Le’s powerful kicks.
Le is humble, and clearly knows how the business works. He made a point in his post-fight interview to thank Dana White and the Fertitta brothers for giving him the opportunity.
If the UFC is smart, they would give Le a middleweight title shot against Anderson Silva. Clearly Silva is a better all-around fighter than Le. But who cares? It’s a virtually guarantee that Le would do at least as well as Stephan Bonnar – and it’s a 100 percent lock that the honest, family values-driven Le isn’t going to cheat and use steroids.
Le, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, has the heart of a lion. Born in Saigon, Vietnam, brought to America and eventually San Jose, California by his mother, fighting and survival is in his blood. He’s also a guy who fights “up,” meaning, he fights better against better fighters.
Le may not be the No. 1 contender, but he would fight Silva to the death. And who knows?
As we saw on Saturday, all it takes is one lucky punch (or kick).