Rich Franklin turns 38 in October, but maybe the math-teacher-turned-mixed-martial-artist does have one last title push left in him.
Franklin utilized brilliant lateral movement, a stiff jab, body kicks and a champion’s resolve to defeat Wanderlei Silva by unanimous decision in the UFC 147 main event on Saturday at Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The bout was contested at a 190-pound catchweight and provided “Ace” with a bridge between divisions: light heavyweight, where he was too small to compete against the cream of the crop, and middleweight, where he was overshadowed by a certain all-time great.
Still a formidable presence inside the Octagon, Franklin’s next appearance figures to come at 185 pounds, as he enters the home stretch in a brilliant career that includes 14 Ultimate Fighting Championship victories -- good for seventh on the all-time list. With age becoming more and more of an adversary, he will need to move quickly in order to make the desired waves.
The UFC does not lack options at middleweight. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping, who withdrew from his UFC 149 bout against Tim Boetsch with a knee injury, should be fully recovered soon. He, too, has a hunger for promotional gold and would undoubtedly welcome a matchup with Franklin, as it could supply him with the leverage he needs to secure a coveted but elusive crack at the middleweight crown.
In wake of UFC 147 “Silva vs. Franklin 2” and UFC on FX 4 “Maynard vs. Guida,” here are six other matchups that need to be made:
Wanderlei Silva vs. Vitor Belfort: Their rematch was set for UFC 147 on the heels of their coaching stints on “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil,” but Belfort’s brittle hands altered those plans. They need to meet again before the sands run completely dry in “The Axe Murderer’s” competitive hour glass.
Gray Maynard vs. Donald Cerrone: Maynard eked out a split decision over Clay Guida in a bizarre main event at UFC on FX 4. Guida spent a majority of the five-round fight darting to and fro around the cage, even earning a warning from referee Dan Miragliotta for failing to engage. Maynard’s frustrations boiled over at one point, but he pursued “The Carpenter” relentlessly and landed his heavy hands when the opportunities developed, earning his first win in nearly two years. Thanks to his trilogy with former champion Frankie Edgar, Maynard finds himself in an awkward position at 155 pounds. Cerrone, one of the division’s most consistent and exciting performers, would serve as a worthy adversary while the rest of the weight class sorts out itself.
Clay Guida vs. Jim Miller: Guida was soundly criticized for his game plan against Maynard, even though it nearly paid off. The 30-year-old Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative has dropped back-to-back fights for the third time since joining the UFC and needs to conjure up some magic if he wants to remain relevant at the upper reaches of the lightweight division. Miller finds himself in a similar predicament after sandwiching losses to Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz around a January submission win over Melvin Guillard.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Mark Hunt: Werdum has made it clear he wants a crack at the heavyweight championship. Whether or not he has done enough to warrant such an opportunity remains to be seen. The two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist looked superb in dispatching Mike Russow, as he carved up the durable Chicago police officer with punches en route to a first-round stoppage. Still, with champion Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez headed for a rematch and a suspended Alistair Overeem still lurking, Werdum might wind up on the outside looking in.
Would UFC brass consider lining up about between “Vai Cavalo” and the resurgent but painfully one-dimensional Hunt in the meantime?
Brian Ebersole vs. Rick Story: The man with the sport’s most famous patch of chest hair has won 11 consecutive fights, four of them in the UFC. Ebersole continued his methodical climb on the welterweight ladder, as he bounced back from a poor first round to defeat T.J. Waldburger by unanimous decision at UFC on FX 4. Seasoned by 66 professional bouts, the 31-year-old globetrotter has not tasted defeat since submitting to punches from American Top Team’s Hector Lombard in September 2008. Story, who was viewed as a dark horse title contender at 170 pounds a year ago, righted his ship with a unanimous verdict over Brock Jardine. A matchup between Ebersole and Story holds the promise of opening doors for both of them.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Chan Sung Jung: Lamas got the attention of the masses with his most significant victory to date -- a unanimous nod over former Sengoku champion Hatsu Hioki. The 30-year-old Chicagoan has hit his stride at 145 pounds, posting consecutive wins over Matt Grice, Cub Swanson and the aforementioned Hioki. Those efforts figure to lead to greater opportunities, more substantial paydays and increased pressures. The UFC undoubtedly wants to develop some depth behind 145-pound titleholder Jose Aldo, who has become as dominant as any champion in the sport. Jung cemented his place as a Top 10 featherweight in May with a fourth-round submission on Dustin Poirier in the UFC on Fuel TV 3 main event. A showdown between “The Korean Zombie” and Lamas would certainly get the old blood pumping.