Three summers ago, Wanderlei Silva lost a unanimous decision to onetime UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin in Germany. It was the Brazilian icon’s fifth loss in six fights.
A once-magnificent bomber who used to instill fear opponents like no other, Silva was viewed as a spent force, a shell of the man who for years dominated the Pride Fighting Championships promotion in Japan. “The Axe Murder” has fought only three times since, sandwiching victories over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping and former Strikeforce champion Cung Le around a 27-second knockout defeat to Chris Leben.
Franklin has enjoyed a terrific career in his own right but never seemed to fully recover from the beatings he sustained in two ill-fated encounters with middleweight king Anderson Silva. Now 37, the man they call “Ace” has not competed since he dropped a unanimous decision to Forrest Griffin 16 months ago, as shoulder surgery has kept him away from the Octagon for an extended period.
Silva and Franklin will lock horns in an unexpected rematch in the UFC 147 main event on Saturday at the Jornalista Felipe Drumond Stadium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. A late replacement for the injured Vitor Belfort, Franklin was training for his own showdown with Le at UFC 148 when he was summoned. The Cincinnati native, who debuted in June 1999, has never lost back-to-back bouts as a professional.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 147 “Silva vs. Franklin 2” headliner, which will be contested at a catchweight of 190 pounds:
Ben Askren: I got Rich in this one. I think Wanderlei has slowed down a bit since their last meeting at UFC 99, so [I pick] Rich by a more significant margin.
Jeff Hougland: I’m going to pick Franklin by KO. I thought their first fight was great; excited to see them get after it again.
Joe Duarte: Wand’s hair is too afraid of him to grow. Besides being one of the best fighters in the world, Franklin also teaches a freshman English class on the weekends, despite the fact his students shouldn’t even be in school on those days. I’m going with Rich by decision.
Jason Dent: I believe Rich will pull it off. Wanderlei fights a little too wild these days, whereas Rich seems to fight with a good game plan every time. I love watching Rich fight and all, but I’m super bummed that Vitor got hurt because I really wanted to see that rematch.
Robert Drysdale: Silva [wins].
Johny Hendricks: Franklin, I think; [he] has more ways to win.
Travis Lutter: I see Franklin edging out another decision. Should be a fun fight, though.
John Gunderson: This is a hard fight to pick. I’m going with Rich because he’s the smarter fighter and can take abuse, where Wanderlei has been finished in six of nine fights. Rich has to be aggressive but technical at the same time to stay away from Wanderlei’s power.
Travis Wiuff: I think Rich takes this fight by TKO in the second round. I think we will see a better Franklin we have seen in a long time and see him make another run at a title.
Javier Vazquez: I am a huge Wanderlei fan, but I just don't think it's going to be very competitive. I think that Franklin will end up catching him with something big in the second round. The only hope that Wand has is if Franklin’s inactivity gets the better of him. I expect Franklin to knock out Wand in the second round. If not, he will win a 30-27 decision.
Shane Roller: Franklin [wins].
Mark Bocek: Wanderlei by TKO, I think.
Nam Phan: I think Franklin can edge out another win.
Keith Berry: Franklin will get the finish by TKO at 4:32 of the first round -- guaranteed.
Benji Radach: Franklin by TKO.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: These guys are both former champions. Both have a lot of experience, not to mention even skillsets standing and on the ground. It’s a tough fight to call on paper. You could pretty much flip a coin, but my gut feeling as soon as I heard about this fight was Wanderlei would win by TKO.
Zach Makovsky: After one of the most dominating streaks ever in MMA and a long list of grueling fights, I am sorry to say I believe the best days of “The Axe Murderer” are behind him. His ultra-aggressive and exciting style will work against him, as Franklin will time a counter left cross for the KO win.
Pros Picking Franklin: 14
Pros Picking Silva: 3
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