Franklin Dominates Loiseau; St. Pierre Secures Title Shot

Franklin Dominates Loiseau

By Josh Gross Mar 5, 2006
LAS VEGAS, March 4 — It is often in the aftermath where we come to learn the breadth of a fighter’s heart.

Take Saturday night, for instance, when inside a not-quite sold-out Mandalay Bay Events Center UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin (Pictures) never showed the effects of a broken hand or foot during his 25 dominant minutes in the cage against Canadian slugger David Loiseau (Pictures).

From inside the building it was impossible to gather that the southpaw had busted his left hand in the second round, mainly because he continued to unleash power shots during the remaining three rounds.

And the same can be said about his injured foot, which was just as ineffective in stopping his march forward as was Loiseau, who took a beating eerily similar to Franklin’s belt-winning effort against Evan Tanner (Pictures).

After five full rounds — the first time in Franklin’s career he’d gone the distance — the Cincinnati, Ohio-based mixed martial artist claimed his second UFC title defense by unanimous decision.

Headlining a card built around bouts matching American and Canadian fighters, Franklin never let his explosive middleweight challenger get on track.

Loiseau’s first appearance in front of the arena’s 10,362 patrons — he prematurely walked to the cage and was forced to turn around and return to the bowels of the arena — became a metaphor for much of his performance.

Firing repeated kicks without any sort of set-up is a sure fire way to get countered against a technician the likes of Franklin, and two and a half minutes into the opening period the Canadian ate a mean kick to the body, which seemed to permanently grind his gears into reverse.

The second period saw a backpedaling Loiseau do very little except look shy to take additional shots to the body. Franklin imposed himself as the period wore on, twice putting Loiseau on the canvas while opening a large lead heading into the third round.

A big Franklin takedown started action to begin the middle third. But Loiseau scored an advantage for the only time in the fight when he countered a Franklin kick with a perfect left hook that sent the American reeling to the canvas.

Even a leg-folding punch wasn’t enough to change the tide of the fight — or round. So good was the champion tonight that he bounced back to take the frame, pushing Loiseau to the limit in every aspect of the fight.

By now the challenger’s face was marked with reminders of Franklin’s attacks. And two minutes into fourth Franklin made what was once a manageable mouse near Loiseau’s left eye into a mash of swollen skin, blood and sweat.

Franklin’s physical dominance was obvious in this round as well, as twice he put the Canadian on the canvas with fast and powerful takedowns, the prettiest of which, a snapping head-over-heels suplex, slammed Loiseau to the floor.

As the fight moved into the fifth and final period, it appeared only a miracle could help the challenger. Loiseau came out kicking and peppered Franklin with hard shots; the undefended blows bounced off the champion’s body, which lead him to move in for a takedown.

Although he could not sink in a fight-ending choke or arm-bending submission, Franklin owned every grappling category in the fight. Eventually, the final round turned into a positional argument, which Franklin won with little problem.

Even when it seemed Loiseau would end up on top and unleash the elbows that aided in his earning a championship shot, Franklin countered masterfully to the mount position.

After the scores were announced (Jeff Mullen and Dalby Shirley had it 50-42 apiece while Nelson Hamilton graciously allowed Loiseau an extra point: 50-43) Franklin mentioned that he’d broken his hand in the second period.

His injury and Loiseau’s damage forced both to Las Vegas’s Valley Hospital Medical Center, where they remained late into the night.

If anything can be taken from Franklin’s performance it is that he won’t be easily separated from a belt that appears to be made for him. Asked about possible challengers, the Queen City’s fighter mentioned Nathan Marquardt (Pictures), who earlier took care of Joe Doerksen (Pictures), and Mike Swick (Pictures), victor versus Steve Vigneault (Pictures).

Marquardt seems the more likely challenger at this point.

The dream fight would pit Franklin and PRIDE champion Dan Henderson (Pictures), though with these men working for competing promotions there appears little chance of it happening.

An obvious challenger would have been Matt Lindland (Pictures). But instead of fighting in the Octagon tonight, the Olympic Greco-Roman silver medalist offered advice outside it.

Cornering B.J. Penn (Pictures) in the Hawaiian’s eagerly anticipated return, Lindland watched as a man he put money on to win was out-worked in the middle and final rounds by Montreal’s Georges St. Pierre (Pictures).

After 15 minutes, two of the three cage-side judges had it 29-28 for St. Pierre, with Cecil Peoples the lone dissenter at 29-28 for Penn. Sherdog.com had it 29-28 for St. Pierre.

During the opening five minutes it seemed unlikely St. Pierre would be able to do enough to earn a decision over the former UFC 170-pound champion, let alone go the distance with him. Despite eating numerous jabs, including one he said forced a bout of double vision during the duration of the opening period, the young welterweight refused to capitulate.

Bloodied but undeterred, St. Pierre battled past the jabs, which came with less frequency as the bout progressed, and began to impose his game on the powerful Penn. It was in the second period that St. Pierre put Penn on the canvas for the first time. Though the Hawaiian stood with relative ease, it was an important moment for the confidence-gaining St. Pierre.

In the third and final period (unfortunate considering the caliber of athletes in the fight) St. Pierre wrested control. With two minutes remaining in the fight Penn attempted his first serious takedown effort. Had he done it earlier in the fight the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt might have finished the maneuver. And he might have won.

But as it was, St. Pierre’s takedown defense and subsequent tackle with a minute to go provided the exclamation point. It was the sort of takedown we’ve seen so often during his impressive run against Jason Miller (Jason Miller' class='LinkSilver'>Pictures), Frank Trigg (Pictures), Sean Sherk (Pictures) and now Penn.

With a half minute left in the fight, the flexible Hawaiian tried a difficult gogoplata from the guard. The pro-Penn crowd groaned as the calm Canadian worked his way free before firing down heavy elbows.

A year ago, it seems likely St. Pierre would have been unable to gut out a win like he did tonight. The fact that he did versus Penn speaks to the point that competing often against world-class opposition is the only way for a fighter to ready himself for greatness. And St. Pierre appears to own the qualities that make a great fighter: heart, focus, and skill.

Penn’s failure is also evidence of this. His two-year out-of-the-UFC soul searching has, in the end, hurt him. Fighting in divisions two, sometimes three times above his competitive weight surely didn’t help. Neither did fighting less than world-class opposition.

It’s unknown where we’ll see Penn next. But, for the sake of his career, it should be at 170 and soon.

As a condition for taking the bout with Penn, St. Pierre now has a guaranteed shot against Matt Hughes (Pictures) set for August or September. Only a shocking Hughes’ loss against Royce Gracie (Pictures) could prevent the inevitably of Hughes-St. Pierre II.
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