Rich Franklin expects Lee to face her toughest test to date against Nunes

A former UFC world middleweight champion, Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin, 42, now spends much of his time fulfilling a new role, that of ONE Championship Vice President. It’s a position he has held since 2014, one which presumably materialised as a result of the stellar work he produced both in the Octagon, during a (on/off) nine-year year stint with the UFC, and also his articulate and amiable demeanour away from the fighting arena.

Tonight Franklin is back in Singapore for ONE Championship: Dynasty of Heroes and it’s fair to say he expects something special from the women’s atomweight main event between champion Angela Lee and challenger Istela Nunes.

Speaking to Fighters Only in Singapore, Franklin said: “I think it’s going to be a stellar fight. Istela Nunes is going to bring a game plan that’s a bit unexpected and that could pose some problems in a way that’s going to make an exciting fight.”

“How real is the challenge Nunes’ striking poses?”

“Very. I was very impressed with the way Angela looked in her last fight. She was putting combinations together, staying relaxed, staying poised and doing a lot of things differently: angling off, different combinations, good head movement. Make no mistake, Istela Nunes is a big step up from Jenny Hwang. Jenny was a different opponent. Her whole game plan was to get Angela down and she couldn’t do it and Angela could control the fight. Istela is a much more dangerous stand-up competitor.

“I’m a bit concerned Angela could come out a little over confident. That’s the little opening Istela could take to win this.

“We haven’t seen much of Istela on the ground, but, call it stereotypes, she’s Brazilian. She has to be good at two things: soccer and jiu-jitsu. It’s in the blood, right? I’m curious if Angela’s path of least resistance is on the ground. Istela is probably more rounded than many of us think.

“I’m really excited to see this because I think it’s a tough match-up all the way around and it’s going to be a good fight. I’m picturing this living up to the kind of fight Angela had with Mei Yamaguchi; just gritty and tough all the way through and you’re watching on the edge of your seat all of the way through.”

Also appearing on the card is American Ben Askren, a man still undefeated, a man still considered one of the very best wrestlers in all of mixed martial arts. Askren, now 32, takes on Agilan Thani in defence of his ONE Championship welterweight title, and Franklin, someone who has watched Askren for a number of years, considers it a huge upset if his fellow American is to somehow be dethroned.

“I think Agilan Thani is a really well-rounded fighter but he doesn’t have the experience Askren does,” said ‘Ace’. “Though Askren’s not as well-rounded, he’s going to do one thing really well.

“I would imagine it’ll be quite an upset if (Thani) wins. Make no mistake about that.

“People are going to be quick to discount a guy like Ben who does something so well. He’s a champion and he’s done this a thousand times. You know what he’s going to do. At some point in time, you have to think someone is going to be able to nullify that and Agilan can pose that kind of problem.”