UFC Macao: Franklin vs. Le is set to go this Saturday and will be the UFC’s first venture into China as the event takes place in Cotai Strip, Macau.
Future Hall of Famer Rich Franklin will headline the show in a very nice showdown against fan favourite Cung Le. The two veterans will be relied upon to put on a great show for the new fans in Asia and combined with the likes of Mac Danzig, Stanislav Nedkov, Thiago Silva, Takanori Gomi and Paulo Thiago, it should be an action-packed event.
Here is a breakdown of the six main-card fights on Saturday’s UFC Macao.
Watch UFC Macao: Franklin vs. Le Saturday on Sportsnet ONE starting at 9 a.m. ET. Also, watch live preliminary fights on Sportsnet.ca starting at 7:40 a.m. ET.
Takeya Mizugaki (15-7) vs. Jeff Hougland (10-5) – bantamweight
This fight was supposed to go down at UFC 151 and got a last-minute move up to the main card bumping Caceres-Kang when Korean Kang Kyung Ho had to drop out due to injury. Both fighters are coming off losses in their last outings and need to turn that around quickly to get some momentum in the division.
Japanese veteran Mizugaki lost a controversial decision to Chris Cariaso last time out in a fight that many thought he had won. He must keep this fight standing and use his crisp boxing as his blueprint to victory. He also needs to turn up his killer instinct and try as hard and smartly as he can to finish his fights. He has not gotten much love from the judges.
Hougland will definitely want to take this fight to the ground at some point try to work to his strengths. He is 34 years old and coming off a loss to Yves Jabouin.
The winner if this fight will stay put in the bantamweight pecking order while the loser could see himself on the outside looking in.
Zhang Tiequan (15-3) vs. Jon Tuck (6-0) – lightweight
Zhang Tiequan is currently the only Chinese fighter signed by the UFC so he will solely carry the weight of his flag in their debut show this weekend. He and Cung Le should get the biggest roar from the crowd.
Zhang is 1-2 in the UFC and needs a win to hang on to his place in the promotion. There may be a bit of pressure but there is no better place to strut your stuff than in front of your home fans. He loves the guillotine choke but must be patient and set it up and not give things away too early if he wants to sink it.
Jon Tuck is an undefeated fighter out of Guam who is making his debut. He tried out for TUF 15 but lost his entry bout to Al Iaquinta.
Takanori Gomi (34-8) vs. Mac Danzig (21-9) – lightweight
The Fireball Kid Takanori Gomi is one of the most accomplished and popular Asian fighters of all time, and he finally gets a match-up in his wheelhouse with Danzig. Losses to Clay Guida and Nate Diaz last year put him a notch down in the minds of many before he bounced back against lamb Eiji Mitsuoka. Gomi brings power in his hands and a willingness to throw bombs every time he is in the cage but his game is limited from there.
Danzig is coming off a nice win over Efrain Escudero in April but just has not been able to string together any type of winning streak. He has a tremendously skilled all-around game and is especially good on the ground. His conditioning is always on par and will be the biggest difference in this fight.
The winner here will keep himself relevant for fairly big fights, while the loser can kiss any type of division climb goodbye.
Dong Hyun Kim (15-2) vs. Paulo Thiago (14-4) – welterweight
The Korean Kim has a very effective all-around game and his only two losses have been to division contender Demian Maia and interim champ Carlos Condit. Kim’s conditioning and fight pace is always key in his blueprint for victory. He lost to Maia via TKO in the first minute and needs a big bounce-back in this one. The longer it goes against a power puncher like Thiago, the better it is for him and he will want to use his strength and wrestling to keep it in tight all night.
Thiago is a dangerous power puncher but is also very capable and slick on the ground. The Brazilian has come upon tough times of late, losing three of his past four fights with his last one a first-round knockout loss to Siyar Bahadurzada in April. He needs something big here and Kim is a very nice match-up for him. Thiago will look to end it at any moment and he may need a stunning knockout to get him back to where he feels he belongs in the division.
The winner here will get a shot at a top contender very soon.
Thiago Silva (14-3) vs. Stanislav Nedkov (12-0) – light heavyweight
It has been a while since we have seen the real and raw aggression that Silva can bring to a fight and I look forward to him getting back to that in this one. Thiago Silva lost his last one to up-and-coming contender Alexander Gustafsson but he lasted the full fight in the process. The other thing we always wonder with Silva is if he is playing the game fair, and hopefully he has learned from all his past transgressions. Look for a hungry, headhunting Silva to try and take Stanislav Nedkov’s undefeated record away.
Nedkov is 1-0 in the UFC following his debut win against Luiz Cane. He took care of the Brazilian quickly but Silva is a large step up from Cane. Nedkov will want to take this one deep and try to use his all-around game to try to wear Silva out and limit the power in his bombs. Nedkov is very mentally tough, while Silva can sometimes lose his focus at the wrong time and that could lead to his undoing in this one.
The winner of this one will stay in the contender neighborhood while the loser could become a prelim fighter for the foreseeable future.
Rich Franklin (29-6) vs. Cung Le (8-2) – middleweight
Having classy future Hall of Fame fighter Rich Franklin to headline a debut show is always a great thing as the legend always comes to fight when the cage door closes and he is a smart and articulate representative outside of it. The fact that Cung Le is of Asian heritage and a movie action hero does not hurt either and the place should be packed for this show.
It’s easy to forget the experience difference between these two veteran fighters but Franklin has 35 fights to Le’s 10. However, conditioning may be the biggest factor in this one. Le has a history of running out of steam as the fight goes on and he is also coming in less than 100 per cent with a broken foot. The longer this fight goes, the better it is for Franklin. The 38 year old isn’t getting any younger either but he is able to pick it up or maintain as it gets deeper into the fight. I think Franklin will use time, movement and counter striking to take it to Le in this one.
The winner here will keep his status as a headline name, while the loser will be headed for a step down in pay and competition in 2013.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.