As with anything, “it depends”. It depends on whether Anderson Silva beats Chael Sonnen for a second time to defend his UFC middleweight title. If he does, the possibility changes dramatically. If Sonnen wins there will no doubt be a deserving demand for a third bout between them and that changes the possibility dramatically.
Somewhere in all the “what could play out” scenarios is Rich Franklin, the former UFC middleweight king. With his thorough handling of Wanderlei Silva(save a roughed up second round) at the recent UFC 147, Franklin again proved to be one of the best clutch performers in the organization. Stepping in once again when a fight was falling apart. Instead of taking on Cung Le as was scheduled for 148, Franklin was more than an adequate substitute for the injured Vitor Belfort, fighting at a 190 catch weight and taking Fight of the Night honors.
He just seems to always come up aces in dire situations. Jumping in without flinching to replace injured Tito Ortiz as The Ultimate Fighter coach, taking on Chuck Liddell and delivering a retirement KO of the legend, even finishing him off while fighting through the pain of a broken arm to add to his lore.
Need a fix? The UFC must have Franklin’s number on their speed dial.
Last August when he was ready to take on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he found himself the odd man out after an injury to Nogueira left Franklin without an opponent. He didn’t go crazy on Twitter, didn’t call a press conference to bemoan his unwanted fate. He exhibited his usual cool class, just part of the uncertain business of the fight game.
It is the loyalty and dependability that makes some feel Franklin deserves at least sentimental acknowledgement for one final title shot as he moves back down from light heavyweight to middleweight. But it goes beyond that– just do the math – as the bachelor degree holder in the subject with a master’s in education is probably the best to assess that.
Again, it will become clearer after the Silva-Sonnen rematch. However, just how many other marquee middleweights are there in the division Silva has dominated like no other fighter in any other rank? Certainly Mark Munoz who missed his last fight with an injury is right at the top of the list for top contender. Hector Lombard, the Bellator champ, is being ushered to the front of that line though by the UFC. Belfort is injured, Michael Bisping is injured, Luke Rockhold is in Strikeforce limbo. So why wouldn’t Franklin be a logical high-level contender at 185?
His resume has no peers among the other listed contenders. With two victories over Wanderlei Silva and Evan Tanner, wins over Ken Shamrock and Yushin Okami, and that knockout of the night against Liddell to go along with the UFC belt in 2006 with two successful title defenses before losing to Silva. His wins and losses have been to A-list fighters in the UFC.
Yes he’s lost twice to Silva in UFC 64 and 77, the latter in his hometown of Cincinnati which certainly didn’t hurt ticket sales. Maybe a title isn’t his next fight, but another win back in the middleweight class should have him prominently in the picture of number one contender by the end of the year. Perhaps a match up with Munoz while Lombard fights for the belt or vice-versa.
In an email interview, Franklin said of getting that chance for the belt, “In a perfect scenario for me, I would fight for the title as soon as possible 🙂 Honestly, I left the division on a win after my title loss.”
Again it depends on the outcome of the Lombard-Tim Boetsch bout later this summer. A win by Boetsch catapults him near the top of the list but shouldn’t leapfrog Franklin’s place.
Still, in any kind of shake out over the next few months in the middleweight division, Franklin deserves to be mentioned. Sure he has some payback due him for being a quintessential company man, but Franklin isn’t about “deserving” in any way other than what he’s done in the octagon. That win over Silva last week after a layoff of sixteenth months because of a shoulder injury to go along with an opponent’s injury, is further proof of the durability and talent that has made him one of the most respected and popular fighters in the sport.
“I am a much better fighter mentally than I was 4 years ago. I think the fight against Wanderlei showed that. I believe I am physically as well, but I also believe the competition has gotten better,” Franklin noted.
It probably won’t happen this year, but before another summer passes how can anyone argue that Franklin doesn’t deserve another title shot? The credentials are there, and more importantly so is the PPV and on-site drawing power. .
Outside of Anderson Silva there is no other name as well-known, and a last hurrah with all on the line would be the perfect way for the man known as Ace to play his trump card.
Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Monday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now
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