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UFC on Fuel 6: Rich Franklin v. Cung Le

Rich Franklin (L) will pit his computational skills against Cung Le's Sanshou kickboxing in Macau. Photo courtesy

On Saturday, November 10th, the UFC debuts in Macau, the Monte Carlo of the Orient, with UFC on Fuel 6. Set up by the Portuguese as a gambling colony in the 1850s, Macau is one of two special administrative districts in The People’s Republic of China---the other being Hong Kong. Macau is a heavyweight: gambling revenue there for 2011 was over 30 billion dollars,  more than five times that of Las Vegas.

Some hotels in Macau are so opulent they make Las Vegas look like a roach motel, and because of its Portuguese founders the city appears more European than anywhere else in Asia. Considering its allure, it’s a wonder The UFC hasn’t had an event here yet. In fact, I’d never heard of Macau’s gambling lore till reading a Facebook post from Canadian author Vincent Lam, who wrote The Headmaster’s Wager.

The time difference means you’ll have to set your clocks early, especially on the west coast: 6p.m. It’s an excellent card Dana White has set up, with the potential to be one of the most interesting  this year. The headliner cages  fan favourite Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin with the always flamboyant Cung Le, a 40 year old fighter originally from Saigon, Vietnam. The style of the fighters, and Le’s worldwide fame as an action star, could put this fight over the top.

Franklin is a former middleweight champion with very disciplined stand-up and a formidable grappling game, especially when striking in top position. The former math teacher studies his opponents thoroughly, and always comes out with a good game plan even if he isn’t able to fully implement it. Taking a rematch against Anderson Silva after the Brazilian—and a plastic surgeon—reconstructed Franklin’s face, shows as much  heart as you can expect from an athlete.

Since moving up to light heavyweight, Franklin has been solid but not stellar. His loss to  Forrest Griffin was indicative of Franklin’s difficulty with big men and his disadvantage at 205. But this fight will be at 185. Franklin’s fans are chomping at the bit to see their man fight again at middleweight.

Le came to the UFC on the hype train via Strikeforce, and even though he was finished by Wanderlei Silva in the second round, his flashy style, amazing kicks, and gritty toughness won me over before the first round was done. In his next fight, Le won a well-deserved unanimous decision over a rejuvenated Patrick Cote, and again was wildly entertaining to watch. Le’s Sanshou kickboxing style is something you have to see to appreciate.

Franklin will be too much for Le in the long run. Le likes to stand in front of his opponent, and the American has great lateral movement and is as good as anyone, except Anderson Silva and Dominick Cruz, at ducking and weaving. His punches may not always look like much, but he is heavy-handed and wears down opponents who don’t find ways to avoid his combinations.

Le’s hopes for a win rest in his unique Sanshou look. If he can perplex Franklin, he might be able to land some damaging shots to put the fight in his favour. He needs to keep off his back. Franklin can posture up or stand over a downed opponent and rain down devastating blows.

Franklin via TKO in round two, but look for more Le fans to come out of another spirited performance.

Follow me @RenkoStyranka


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