Where is Cung Le going in the UFC middleweight division? Does “The Fireball Kid” still have a spark? And did we see a future champion on Saturday’s undercard? We’ll try to sort out these and other questions, posed by Sherdog.com features editor Brian Knapp, in our post-mortem for UFC on Fuel TV 6. Make sure to let your voice be heard and leave your own answers in the comments.
Question: If Rich Franklin retired tomorrow, how will history remember him?
Answer: Much like Alexandre Franca Nogueira at featherweight or Shinichi Kojima at flyweight, Franklin will probably be remembered as the best middleweight before the middleweight division was fully developed. There’s a clear line through Franklin’s career: pre-Anderson Silva, when he was the inexplicably unstoppable math teacher, and post-Anderson Silva. Since the second Silva fight, it’s been a given that Franklin will never again hold the 185-pound title as long as “The Spider” is around, leading him to take all sorts of fights up and down the scale. That may be Franklin’s other legacy: a guy who won some spectacularly and lost some spectacularly but always came to fight. Hopefully, he has a few more left in him to author a more fitting end.
Question: How should the UFC utilize Cung Le?
Answer: Things are working out for Le, so it seems logical that it would continue giving him high-profile fights against established middleweights, as well as placing him on cards in Asia and California. Le will be closing in on 41 the next time he steps in the cage, but his star power and recent wins have earned him a more relevant opponent. Considering he emerged from the Franklin fight unscathed, it might make sense for Le to land on the UFC’s March card in Japan, and it would be nice to see him against someone in the Top 10 or 15.
Question: Thiago Silva has won one fight in the last three years, yet he has found himself in either the main event or co-main event in four of his last five appearances. How does he keep securing such prime real estate on UFC cards?
Answer: Although it nearly backfired in this instance, it has to be Silva’s exciting style that keeps getting him big bookings. Few guys match his intensity and willingness to go for broke each time out, and that’s a quality the UFC really seems to value. In this case, it was a win-win for Zuffa: if Stanislav Nedkov beat Silva, it would have a 13-0 light heavyweight with a “name” win under his belt, albeit a lackluster win. As it turns out, Silva did the UFC a favor and handed the Bulgarian his first loss after a rather dull 10 minutes, giving the company a reason to place him in another main card slot his next time out.
Question: Takanori Gomi provided glimpses of the form that made him the world’s top lightweight in his win over Mac Danzig. At 34, where does he fit into the UFC’s 155-pound division?
Answer: Gomi looked as good Saturday as he has since joining the UFC -- even better than his 2010 highlight reel clubbing of Tyson Griffin, because this fight required Gomi to go the distance with a durable opponent. His pace, punching, cardio, sub defense and even ground control of Danzig added up to a much-deserved and much-needed decision, giving Gomi his first back-to-back wins in the Octagon. All signs point to the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder getting some of his groove back and becoming a name for lightweights to avoid, but there is one small problem: this is Takanori Gomi. "The Fireball Kid" has been maddeningly inconsistent since the fall of Pride, and it’s sometimes been hard to know which Gomi will show up from one fight to the next. For now, it’s best to be cautiously optimistic and say that if the Gomi who fought in Macau shows up each time, he could be around for a while yet as a Clay Guida-style gatekeeper-slash-fringe contender.
Question: John Lineker is only 22 years old and has won 14 of his last 15 fights. Is he a potential future champion?
Answer: Yes. Lineker lost his UFC debut, and while Louis Gaudinot is no slouch, that defeat is looking more and more like an aberration brought on by forces outside the Octagon. The Brazilian reportedly arrived in the states alone, without proper equipment or a team to help with his weight cut. On Saturday, Lineker put forth a great performance against a former Shooto world champ in Yasuhiro Urushitani. It wasn’t just a strong win; it was exactly the kind of all-action performance that the UFC is looking for in its newly forged flyweight division. Few would pick him to dethrone Demetrious Johnson tomorrow, but Lineker has heaps of potential and plenty of time to develop into a championship-caliber fighter.
Question: Does Tiequan Zhang belong in the UFC?
Answer: Arguably no fighter belongs on the UFC roster after three straight losses, though Zuffa has been known to make exceptions. See: Mark Hominick on this coming weekend’s UFC 154 bill. Unlike Hominick, however, “The Wolf” had zero significant wins in the Octagon before his losing skid and has shown no signs of being championship or even contender material. If the UFC is keen to keep Zhang in the fold, perhaps a good place for him would be the upcoming Chinese edition of “The Ultimate Fighter.”