After his victory over Wanderlei Silva last weekend, Rich Franklin may be pondering one last run at UFC's middleweight title. At least that was the story that came out of Franklin's win and the accumulation of his comments following the win.
It's ironic when you consider that Franklin accepted the fight while training in Thailand for a fight with Cung Le. Franklin was originally scheduled to fight Le on July 7, but Vitor Belfort went down with a hand injury, which meant Silva needed a new opponent. Franklin took the fight probably because it was a main-event fight, but also possibly because it was against someone he'd already beaten before.
To be fair to Franklin, he did perform superbly for a guy who, at nearly 38, took a fight on short notice while training for a different fight. But looking at who Franklin was training for may hold the key to his victory of Wanderlei. In training for Cung Le, Franklin no doubt was looking for and strategizing ways to neutralize Le's kicks. Wanderlei's kicks did not have the force or power that Le's would have had and that makes this writer believe that Franklin had an advantage in that area leading up to the fight. He then proved that by neutralizing Wanderlei's kicks and only once did Wandi land a kick on Franklin where it looked like the kick may have dazed or hurt him.
Franklin's boxing has rarely been in better form as he was able to landslide Wandi in rounds three and four when the fight was at its tipping point. But even in the earlier rounds, Franklin appeared to be in rare form with his standing game, landing with straight rights over and over again while maintaining proper distance, and baiting Wanderlei to jump in and try to slug it out. There were a few brief instances where the two did slug it out and the majority of the time Franklin came out landing the better shots and receiving far less damage.
It was a fun and entertaining fight (like their first), but Franklin made the judges' jobs a lot easier this time around.
As for “Ace” making another run at the title he was the last guy to own other than Anderson Silva, it may be too little too late for that.
While Franklin tried out the light heavyweight division, a lot has happened to make UFC's middleweight division interesting again. Outside of the upcoming Silva/Sonnen fight, the division is full of potential contenders as well as fights that will determine the landscape of the division for the near future.
One fight that immediately pops up is Boetsch/Lombard, which may create a new challenger directly from its result. Tim Boetsch doesn't have much of a following, but is known to have powerful hands and his incredible comeback over Yushin Okami back in February does give him momentum that he can help grow with a win over Lombard. Lombard is someone whose name is big among die-hard MMA fans as well as insiders & people within the sport from word of mouth, his performances in Bellator, and the fact that he hasn't lost since his days in Pride FC. Lombard would be easier to promote for a title fight with Silva or Sonnen, but Boetsch as the underdog in a title scenario is marketable too.
And there are plenty of fighters that could have a case to be either more deserving of a title shot than Franklin or would be fighters that Franklin may have to go through if he wants one more title shot. The Silva/Sonnen II loser would definitely still be in the thick of the title hunt. Alan Belcher is a name that now deserves some notice in the title picture as he is riding a four-fight win streak with the last being an impressive win over Rousimar Palhares on network television. Michael Bisping was originally supposed to be fighting Boetsch, but an injury forced him out. Remember, Bisping has always been a UFC project and will thus be put in fights that could result in a title shot as long as he continues to win. And of course Brian Stann. Stann is a fighter that UFC is looking to create a new star with. His fights have been getting more and more hype as well as more and more attention in the past two years, and with him originally to be fighting Lombard in a network televised fight, it's obvious that UFC has plans for him.
The one thing that people have to remember about Franklin is that he's looked good in victory in recent time, but over the last three years, Franklin has only defeated two men: Wanderlei Silva (twice) and Chuck Liddell. Granted, he looked great in all three wins. However, if that's all Franklin has to his recent list of wins, he's not going to get another title shot.
Of course, an injury does have the power to switch up several UFC cards at once, so maybe Franklin will be another fighter to cash in on another fighter's injury.
But if Wandi had ten more seconds at the end of round two, this would likely be an article about whether “The Axe Murderer” still has one more title run left in him. Something to remember, and think about.
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