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In the first UFC main event ever in China, middleweight Cung Le delivered a knockout its new fan base likely won't soon forget.
A perfectly placed overhand right ended Rich Franklin's night and gave Le his first finish in the UFC. Referee Marc Goddard stopped the fight immediately at the 2:17 mark.
Franklin came out looking to establish his straight left and dictate range against the unorthodox Le. It appeared to be working until he got clipped. After throwing leg kick, Franklin looked to follow with a right hand, leaving his chin exposed. Le found it.
"That's the biggest fight of my life. Lucky punch," Le said. "He kept looking for me to kick. I came in with the overhand right. I caught him."
Franklin, who survived being hurt in a decision win over Wanderlei Silva in June, said little after the fight but made no mention of possibly retiring at age 38.
|Cung Le's dynamic striking made for an early night for Rich Franklin.|
"I don't know. I'll have to go back and watch it," said Franklin, referring to the final exchange. "I'm a little fuzzy right now. I'll have to go home and go back to the drawing board -- make an intelligent decision."
Le (9-2) records perhaps the biggest win of his professional career. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion entered the UFC on a loss to Wanderlei Silva last November, but has rebounded with wins over Patrick Cote and Franklin.
Franklin (29-7), who had spoke publicly on wanting a final title run at 185 pounds, suffers the fifth knockout loss of his 13-year professional career. He has fought only four times since the start of 2010 due to injury, with wins over Chuck Liddell and Silva during that time.
Thiago Silva weathered the storm for two rounds and was left with an exhausted Stanislav Nedkov by the third.
|Thiago Silva, top, was forced to dig deep and weather a few storms before submitting Stanislav Nedkov.|
The Brazilian entered the final round of his light heavyweight fight badly needing a finish, which he found against a fading Nedkov. After spending the first two rounds bullying Silva against the fence, it was obvious Nedkov had nothing left.
Silva submitted him via arm triangle at the 1:45 mark.
"Just to work my standup and kick his legs," said Silva, on his strategy headed into the final round. "That's what I did. I used the right opportunity to take him down."
The Bulgarian led off the third with his patented, looping overhand right but was immediately in trouble as Silva slipped the punches easily and started stringing together counter strikes.
At one point, Nedkov turned his back and walked to the cage as if he wanted to call a timeout. Silva used the opportunity to take him down, transition to full mount and eventually into the submission.
It was a good showing by Nedkov up to that point. He had success blitzing Silva into the fence with flurries and holding him there. He hurt the Brazilian at the end of the second round with a counter right hand.
Silva (15-3), though, records the win he badly needed, his first since a first-round finish over Keith Jardine in August 2009. He had a win over Brandon Vera in 2011 overturned after failing a post-fight drug test.
Nedkov (12-1) loses for the first time in his pro career.
Dong Hyun Kim couldn't quite earn his first finish since 2008 but still turned in a dominant performance over Paulo Thiago.
|Dong Hyun Kim, top, manhandled Paulo Thiago for an impressive win.|
The Korean welterweight pitched a shutout, taking a unanimous decision by scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. He finished each of the first two rounds in a submission attempt and ended the fight throwing wild punches from full mount.
Thiago simply had no answer for Kim's grappling pedigree. Kim threatened with a neck crank in the first round and likely would have finished a D'arce choke in the second had he not run out of time.
It is a satisfying rebound for Kim (16-2-1) after suffering a first-round TKO loss to Demian Maia in July when a severe muscle spasm rendered him helpless. He's now won eight fights inside the Octagon.
The tailspin continues for Thiago (14-5) who has fallen completely out of title contention by losing four of his last five. His only win during the skid came via decision over David Mitchell at UFC 134.
Takanori Gomi turned in arguably his best overall performance since signing with the UFC in 2010 with a hard fought split decision win over Mac Danzig.
|Takanori Gomi, right, looked more impressive than he ever has in the UFC in topping Mac Danzig.|
Gomi, who went winless in 2011, defended a few key takedowns and varied his offensive attack just enough to edge Danzig on the scorecards in a back-and-forth fight. Both men had success in the exchanges, but it was Gomi who switched up his offense more and became the aggressor in later rounds.
Danzig nearly finished the fight with a guillotine attempt in the second round. He would ultimately run out of time looking for the finish, but it did win him the round and set up a deciding final frame.
Showcasing a gas tank he had previously lacked in the Octagon, Gomi defended Danzig's attempts to get him to the ground and stalked forward the final five minutes. Two judges scored it for Gomi 29-28, with the other leaning Danzig 29-28.
Gomi (34-8) breathes life into his UFC career, improving to 3-3 in the Octagon. His losses have all come via finish, to Kenny Florian, Clay Guida and Nate Diaz. Danzig (21-10) has now alternated wins and losses in his last seven fights.
A comeback win for the home crowd wasn't in the cards for Chinese lightweight Tiequan Zhang as he dropped a unanimous decision to UFC newcomer Jon Tuck.
|Jon Tuck, left, and Tiequan Zhang took turns teeing off on one another for three rounds.|
Tuck, an undefeated prospect out of Guam, showed a versatile ground game the first two rounds that was clearly too much for Zhang. He threatened to end the contest multiple times, via armbar, choke and even attempted a mounted triangle in the second round.
Zhang had his moments on the feet, enticing a fatigued Tuck into a brawl in the third frame. It was enough to win him the round but not the fight. Judges scored the bout 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 all for Tuck.
"It felt awesome," said Tuck, on his UFC debut. "Awesome war. A little island against a big country. I pack a lot of power. Great fight."
It was the first time Tuck (7-0) has had to fight past the first round and it was his first pro appearance since in nearly a year. Zhang (15-4) suffers his third consecutive loss. The eight-year veteran falls to 1-3 in the UFC.
Takeya Mizugaki's top game proved to be too much for Jeff Hougland, as the Japanese bantamweight cruised to a unanimous decision in the opening bout of the televised UFC on Fuel card.
Mizugaki's strategy was apparent early on, taking Hougland down and landing punches from inside his opponent's guard. Hougland attempted several submissions off his back, but that was going to be a tough task considering Mizugaki has only been submitted once in his professional career.
The final two rounds featured more of the same. On several occasions, referee Steve Perceval was quick to stand up the action, but Mizugaki would typically respond with an immediate takedown. Judges scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 for Mizugaki.
Mizugaki (16-7-2) continues his pattern of alternating wins and losses. The 28-year-old has done so in his last 11 fights, dating back to 2008. He is 3-2 in the UFC. Hougland (10-6) will need to rebound quickly. After entering the UFC on a 8-fight win streak, he is 1-2 in the Octagon.