Everything that the Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida fight on Friday night promised, but did not deliver, Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin did at UFC 147: Silva vs. Franklin II on Saturday night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Rich Franklin fought a smart fight from bell-to-bell, getting his jab and boxing combinations going early in the fight, occasionally mixing in sharp kicks to the body.
Darting in and out on Silva throughout the fight, Franklin picked away at the legendary Brazilian fighter, mixing his attacks high and low as the fight wore on, visibly wearing on Silva.
But every time that it looked like Franklin had Silva’s number dialed, the Brazilian battled back, like a wounded animal pushed into a corner.
Silva’s brightest moment of the fight came in the second round. As Franklin appeared to be dismantling him, Silva unleashed a huge right hand that hurt Franklin and put him on the mat. Silva pounced, unleashing a furious onslaught of punches and hammerfists, but just couldn’t put Franklin away.
It did put him somewhere other than Belo Horizonte for the better part of the rest of the fight.
“I don’t remember in between the second and the fifth round, all the sudden it’s the fifth round,” Franklin would later recall before commenting on the right hand that put him down. “No, I don’t remember that. Maybe that will be my next Twitter avatar.”
While it was a near miss for Silva, it was also likely his undoing for the rest of the fight. He came out in round three, mounting almost no offense, looking weary from his efforts to close out the fight in round two.
“At the end of the second round, I really thought I was going to knock him out, but I wasn’t able to,” Silva commented after the fight. “I pushed it a little bit too much, but I really wanted to knock him out.”
Having weathered that storm, Franklin got back in his groove, picking away at Silva, occasionally landing a big shot, but not finding thee shot that would put him away.
Silva got that look that only he gets in the final minute of the fight and unleashed the Axe Murderer on Franklin, but it wasn’t enough. He was swinging for the fences, trying to take Franklin’s head off, but he just couldn’t do it.
Franklin, in fact, shot in a straight left hand in the closing seconds of the fight to put Silva down to one knee briefly just before the horn sounded.
In the end, Franklin earned 49-46 scores from all three judges, taking the unanimous decision victory, proving that, although this fight was at 190 pounds, he is ready for the return to middleweight.
“I’ll talk to Dana,” said Franklin, “but the idea was to move back down (to 185 pounds) and try to make another title run.”
Whether he does or not remains to be seen, but Franklin took an impressive first step in his stellar performance against Silva.