Rich Franklin has the chance to move into a class all by himself when he meets Wanderlei Silva in the UFC 147 main event on Saturday at Mineirinho Gymnasium in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
“The Axe Murderer” has faced six different opponents -- Ricardo Arona, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Hidehiko Yoshida and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic -- on multiple occasions, and none managed to defeat him twice. With a unanimous decision victory over Silva at UFC 99 already in his back pocket, Franklin has the opportunity to become the first fighter to accomplish the feat. However, he puts little stock in their first encounter.
“Past victories and losses can’t predict future victories and losses,” Franklin said during a pre-fight media call for UFC 147. “Both Wanderlei and I are two completely different fighters.”
Lack of activity could prove an impediment. Franklin has not fought since dropping a unanimous decision to former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin at UFC 126 in February 2011. The 37-year-old Cincinnati native withdrew from a proposed bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira six months later and underwent shoulder surgery in October. However, Franklin does not view his absence from the cage as a negative.
“I’m not concerned about ring rust,” he said. “I think ring rust is prominent in two types of fighters: young fighters and fighters who have taken significant time off. I was preparing for a fight last August, and I did everything to get ready for that fight. To me, I don’t feel like I was out that long. Granted, I had the shoulder surgery in October, but I recovered really well. My flexibility and mobility were ahead of the charts. I feel fine.”
From the sound of it, Franklin benefitted from the break.
“Being out of the gym, it does help with your body,” he said. “There’s a difference between training for a fight and training for fun. When you’re not pushing yourself for a fight, it does feel good.”
The time away allowed Franklin to contemplate his next move. The loss to Griffin, a monstrous 205er, proved revelatory, as he made the decision to return to the weight class in which he enjoyed his greatest success. The Silva rematch, contested at a catchweight of 190 pounds, will serve as a bridge between the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
“At 205, I just wasn’t a big enough fighter,” Franklin said. “My record there was kind of mixed anyways, so I knew a title run would be difficult to do with that size disadvantage. Dropping back down, I knew I could at least try to get that title run. I don’t know where a win over Wanderlei would put me in terms of a title shot. I’ve had enough on my plate to think about with this opponent.”
No fighter has more to gain at UFC 147 than Mike Russow, who will lock horns with Fabricio Werdum in a heavyweight showcase. The once-beaten Chicago police officer will enter the cage on the strength of an 11-fight winning streak.
“Obviously, I have a lot of respect for Fabricio,” Russow said. “He’s ranked fifth in the world. A win over him would get my career going. It would really jumpstart it. It would be huge.”
Since entering the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2009, Russow has scored wins over Justin McCully, Todd Duffee, Jon Madsen and John Olav Einemo. Werdum, a two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, represents a steep climb in competition. Russow does not lack confidence.
“I believe I’m right up there with the top,” he said. “Since I’ve signed with the UFC, I’ve had injuries and been averaging one fight a year. I’m excited this year to have two fights already, and I just want to keep going. Hopefully, this will be a good sign.”
Russow has no qualms about fighting Werdum in his homeland.
“It really doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I don’t hear the fans once the ref says, ‘Let’s go.’ I don’t even hear my coaches. It’s not going to bother me at all.”
This & That
Silva has not posted back-to-back wins since he defeated Arona on Dec. 31, 2005 and Kazuyuki Fujita on July 1, 2006. He has gone 3-6 in his last nine fights ... Iuri Alcantara has rattled off 13 straight victories, the longest such streak of any fighter on the card. Russow has won 11 in a row, followed by John Teixeira da Conceicao with nine ... Sergio Moraes -- who moved into “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil” middleweight final when Daniel Sarafian withdrew with an injury -- has six professional victories to his credit, five of them by first-round submission ... All 19 of Marcos Vinicius’s wins have come by knockout, technical knockout or submission ... Twenty of the 22 fighters competing at UFC 147 hail from Brazil. Franklin and Russow are the only foreigners ... Forced out of his matchup with Silva with a hand injury, Vitor Belfort remains one of only two men to have beaten both Franklin and “The Axe Murderer.” Henderson is the other.