Saturday morning comes the UFC’s latest jaunt into Asia in Macao, China. Time for fight preview time!
Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le
Fight Breakdown: Consider this a battle of guys trying for one last run in the division, it seems, and two guys with unique skill sets in MMA.
Le has an odd collection of first rate amateur wrestling credentials coupled with one of the prettiest striking outputs in the game. He throws kicks like jabs and manages to pull off spinning kicks and such you only see in demonstrations. Look for him to keep it standing and try to pick apart Franklin with his striking display. He’s a small middleweight and is giving up enough in size that he’ll avoid the clinch and anywhere else where Franklin can muscle him around.
Franklin’s good at everything but he’s not stellar at any one thing. It’s one of the reasons why he’s been a Top 10 fighter in two divisions; he may not be slick at any one thing but he’s good enough to fight anywhere he’s taken. He also cuts a lot of weight to make 185, as well, which puts him amongst the bigger fighters in the division. He’ll have a distinct size advantage that’ll go towards his game plan: Franklin needs to impose his will on Le.
A good chunk of his offense needs to be in tight, preventing Le from breaking out that diverse move set. Look for him to clinch and dirty box, going for takedowns and top position. Le has excellent TDD but Franklin keeping him in close is going to be a key to winning. Franklin has a size and experience advantage; Le may have a lot of diverse experience but Franklin has spades more inside the cage. He’s been working with San Shou fighters for quite some time to get a gauge on Le, as well, so you can’t discount that either. He’s not going to be confused or let Le set things up like many fighters unfamiliar with his style. Watch for his movement to cut the cage off and close the distance.
Why It Matters: A win here and Franklin could be back in the title mix sooner than later, depending on how much longer Anderson Silva is in the sport, and Franklin back at middleweight makes sense. He’s at his best at 185, I think, and you’d still have to rank him somewhere in the top 10 in the division. At a minimum with a win over Le he could give him someone that matters in the division. He wants one last run and a win here does that. You could argue Franklin versus someone that matters with a win; odds are someone like Weidman or Belfort blows him out of the water most likely but Franklin’s in an odd spot. He wants to keep fighting but he needs a Sonnen like run through contenders to get a third shot at Silva. And even then it would be a tough sell considering Silva has destroyed him twice already. He won’t make a run at light heavyweight, either, and thus he’s there to take interesting fights one imagines. A win here and you could make an argument for a relevant fight in the division.
Le’s in an odd spot as well; he’s mainly an actor year round and has a lot of wear and tear on the body despite not having a ton of fights on his record due to his extensive kick boxing and San Shou record. He might retire when all is said and done after this fight; he’s too old to have a sustained run and hasn’t looked like a top tier middleweight in a long time if ever.
Prediction: Franklin by UD
Thiago Silva vs. Stanislav Nedkov
Fight Breakdown: What happens when you put a couple of hard swinging BJJ fighters in a cage? Fireworks … at least that’s the intent here.
Nedkov and Silva both have substantial grappling pedigrees but both fall into that Gabriel Gonzaga mode in that their striking game sets up everything else. This should be an interesting brawl as neither guy really is inclined to initiate the ground game. Silva has some choice power on occasion, Nedkov emphatically stopped Luiz Cane in Brazil.
Why It Matters: Silva is considered by many to be a Top 10 light heavyweight, or close to it, but he hasn’t looked the part in a while. Throw in some wackiness with post fight drug testing, and a beatdown at the hands of Alex Gustafsson, and Silva is now in a make or break moment. He needs a win, an emphatic one at that, to stay relevant. Nedkov is a prospect in the division but his time frame to move up to the top is short; this is being dropped into the fire quickly and a win here gets him someone with a name.
Prediction: Silva by KO
Dong Hyun Kim vs. Paulo Thiago
Fight Breakdown: Kim is a first rate grappler who wants to get the fight to the ground as fast as he can. Thiago has great striking and a propensity to mix it up anywhere his opponent takes him. This could be a fight of the night candidate that sneaks up on people.
Why It Matters: Thaigo has a big win over Josh Koscheck eons ago and everyone’s still waiting for him to make that surge into the Top 10. Kim appeared to be there but a fluky loss to Damian Maia and a thumping from Carlos Condit leave him needing to build back again. It’s now or never for both men and a win here is the start of a career rebound.
Prediction: Kim by UD
Takanori Gomi vs. Mac Danzig
Fight Breakdown: Danzig’s a well rounded fighter most comfortable on the ground. Gomi was well rounded at one point but now is content to rely on a power boxing game to compliment a top control game on the ground. Danzig’s key to winning here is going to get Gomi down and work his top position game; Danzig is good enough to keep the fight standing but Gomi still has one shot KO power. Look for Danzig to come out the gates fast and get the fight to the ground.
Once upon a time Gomi was the undisputed king of the lightweight division. Once upon a time Mac Danzig was a burgeoning lightweight who seemed to be on the cusp of greatness. Unfortunately time passed by and Gomi fell from grace, and fell hard, while Danzig found himself being a good but not great fighter in the division.
Look for Gomi to keep this standing and throw power shots; he doesn’t set up his big overhands very well and Danzig will probably try to time them to get a double leg.
Why It Matters: Once upon a time Gomi was the undisputed king of the lightweight division. Once upon a time Mac Danzig was a burgeoning lightweight who seemed to be on the cusp of greatness. Unfortunately time passed by and Gomi fell from grace, and fell hard, while Danzig found himself being a good but not great fighter in the division.
Prediction: Danzig by submission
Motonobu Tezuka vs. Alex Caceres
Fight Breakdown: Tezuka is the latest grappling heavy Japanese wrestler to come out from that country’s circuit. Caceres is a former Florida street fighter turned real fighter who made his name on TUF. Texuka likely goes to the ground and goes for submissions, Caceres is comfortable there but much better on his feet. Tezuka is also taking the fight on short notice, as well.
Why It Matters: The UFC wants a high level Japanese fighter for that market. Caceres is an interesting prospect whose ceiling is just starting to come into view.
Prediction: Caceres by UD
Tiequan Zhang vs. Jon Tuck
Fight Breakdown: Zhang is becoming Chinese for “Cody McKenzie” at this point because he’s almost a one trick pony: if he can’t get that guillotine he can’t hang. Tuck is a grappling whiz making his UFC debut after a tough loss left him looking in the outside of TUF season 15. Both guys are first round fighters; both start out and throw nearly everything they have in the first to go for the finish.
Why It Matters: Zhang is another Asian fighter who made his bones on that circuit and hasn’t done much in the UFC. Tuck is a nice prospect making his debut in the Octagon.
Prediction: Tuck by KO