Vietnam-born Le knocks out Franklin in first round
MACAU—For a cautious 40-year-old with a couple of decades of experience, Cung Le’s timing and power remained incredibly intact.
Le floored former middleweight champion Rich Franklin with a right hand to the jaw, abruptly ending the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Saturday night at Venetian Hotel and Casino’s Cotai Arena.
The impact of the blow sent Franklin spinning before falling face first on the octagon floor, prompting referee Marc Goddard to wave him off with still 2:17 to go in the first of their five-round middleweight bout.
After regaining consciousness and realizing what hit him, the Cincinnati, Ohio, ground-and-pound expert could only shake his head in utter disbelief as doctors milled around him.
“That’s the biggest fight of my life,” said Le, a former Strikeforce middleweight titleholder and master of six fighting styles—wushu, taekwondo, wrestling, kickboxing, draka and shidokan.
The Vietnam-born Le, who scored his eighth MMA knockout in a 9-2 record, was at the receiving end of a couple of quick shots to the face and body as Franklin moved in and out early in the bout.
Le then unleashed the jaw-cracker and the sellout crowd of mostly Chinese, Americans and Filipinos erupted in delight.
“He kept throwing that punch and I wasn’t able to time my kick,” said Le. “He kept loading up and looking for a kick and then catch me with the punches. So I waited for him to punch and I just came in with the overhand right.”
Franklin, in the twilight of his career at 38, fell to 29-7 with one no-contest.
“I’ll have to go home, go back to the drawing board, sit down with my coaches and make an intelligent decision,” he said.
Overall, Asians won five of eight matches with Takeya Mizugaki, Riki Fukuda and Takanori Gomi of Japan and Korea’s Kim Dong-hyun going the full three-round route.
Kim scored a unanimous decision over Brazil’s Paulo Thiago (welterweight) while Mizugaki got the nod of all the judges over American Jeff Houghland (bantamweight).
Fukuda also dominated New Jersey’s Tom DeBlass in three rounds (middleweight) while Gomi pulled off a controversial split decision over Mac Danzig of Los Angeles (lightweight).
The UFC, the premier MMA outfit in the world, will stage eight more fights in the continent over the next two years with organizers looking at the Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Shanghai, Beijing, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia as possible destinations.