The July 7th UFC 148 event scheduled for the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada has the makings of a big fight weekend. The UFC will lead off with their two day expo, and the main event of 135 lb title fight between Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz is set, and the finals of the reality series ‘The Ultimate Fighter season 15′ are expected to be scheduled for that event as well. The UFC just announced what could be the co-main event in the 185 lb middleweight division as former champion Rich Franklin returns to the octagon after a long layoff to face Cung Le. Among the intriguing factors in the bout is Franklin’s return to the middleweight division, as he had been doing catch weight bouts before his layoff. Le is coming off a KO loss to Vanderlei Silva, and needs a win after dropping 2 of his last 3.
Th match actually has a lot of name recognition and value, and will likely be on the higher end of the pay scale, however I don’t look for this bout to have any title implications whatsoever. Both guys are certainly at the tail end of their careers, and likely their contracts. Despite it’s seeming lack of importance in the title picture, it is still a good fight on paper and one that is likely to see the loser retire from the UFC.
It will be interesting to see how much Franklin has left in the tank. He is an athlete who always took care of himself, so after undergoing a surgery and spending 19 months away, the return to 185 could signal a rejuvenation of sorts in Franklin. The question is has Franklin added to his repetoire of skills, or are we going to see the same fighter who comes forward and takes punishment?
IF that is the case, then Cung Le is a very bad matchup for Rich. Le is a polished striker, both with his hands and his feet, and he will out technique Franklin in a stand up fight. Franklin never had takedowns as a strong suit, and Le has a solid base and wants to fight standing. The old Rich Franklin would have had trouble taking Cung Le down.
But this will be Cung Le’s tenth career fight and he will be 40 years old when the bell rings. Le looked to tire in his last outing when Vanderlei Silva took him out, and if he comes in unmotivated or out of shape, then the fight will be tough. Franklin enjoys some reach and size advantages and he may be able to set a pace that wear’s Le out.
I see a lot of action coming in on this one, and when the lines are revealed, it is likely to be Franklin as the slight favorite. If ever there was one to watch for good and bad signs trickling out of the respective camps though, this is the fight. It depends which guy shows up, on both ends!