by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

For the seventh time in his career, Rich Franklin will enter the UFC octagon and for the second time he will defend his middleweight championship, this time against Canadian contender David “The Crow” Loiseau.

Franklin comes into this fight with a whole new level of popularity following close behind him. The UFC is thriving right now with the success of the Ultimate Fighter reality show, their Spike TV live shows, and pay-per-view numbers that seem to get better and better as time goes on, and Rich Franklin is becoming one of the faces of the UFC along side other mainstays like Chuck Liddell.

After defeating Evan Tanner for the second time at UFC 53, thus becoming the middleweight champion, Franklin was more than happy to take on any challenger that was willing to step into the octagon with him. His first challenge was against Ultimate Fighter season one competitor Nate “The Rock” Quarry.

Quarry had said multiple times leading up to the fight that he believed Franklin had a weak chin and he was going to test it. While the champ has never been one to mix words with any opponent, it seemed like the constant bombardment of Quarry’s verbal jabs started to get under the skin of Franklin and he was going to prove not only that he had a good chin but he had some powerful hands to back it up.

It was quick to see that Franklin’s stand-up game has become top notch in the past year or so because he dispatched of Quarry with relative ease, knocking him out in the first round. While many said that Quarry should not have been given a title shot, up until his loss to Franklin he had only tasted defeat one other time and it wasn’t by knockout. Franklin stood tall and walked out champion, and will now defend his title for a second time.

David “The Crow” Loiseau has been working his way back to the top of the ranks ever since his back to back losses to Jorge Rivera and Jeremy Horn in late 2003 and early 2004. Since that time, Loiseau has polished his game and become a more complete mixed martial artist who is proficient in many aspects but still remains most dangerous on his feet.

Loiseau regained his composure after the losses and got a couple key wins in the TKO organization in Canada before being asked back to the UFC. This time around Loiseau made no mistakes and in his first fight back took out Gideon Ray, and it was quickly notated that Loiseau had some razor sharp elbows that could strike at any time.

Loiseau then took on Charles McCarthy at UFC 53 where he hit a spinning back kick that was one of the best highlights of the entire show. Stunning McCarthy with the kick, Loiseau followed with a flying knee and some strikes that ended the fight and got him the victory.

Loiseau’s biggest test to date was when he took on former champion and long time MMA veteran Evan Tanner at Ultimate Fight Night 2. Despite giving his back to the former champion for a couple of minutes in the fight, it again was Loiseau’s elbows that got him the win. A powerful shot from Loiseau opened a cut on Tanner’s head forcing a stop to the action and gave a TKO victory to the Canadian.

This fight has a lot of potential to end early but could also go all five rounds. Franklin has shown great knockout power in many of his victories and is willing to trade with anybody that will stand in front of him. Loiseau is much the same and doesn’t back down when standing and with his ability to land some very heavy damage with his elbow strikes and will go for more unusual moves like his spinning back kick that pretty much ended McCarthy’s night at UFC 53.

The two fighters do share some common opponents, most notably Jorge Rivera. Rivera took on Loiseau in his first appearance in the UFC and despite the hype surrounding “The Crow,” it was instead Rivera who controlled the clinch, landed more shots, and eventually got the decision win. Franklin fought Rivera in his second fight out after dropping from light heavyweight to middleweight. Rivera gave Franklin everything he could handle and more, with the majority of their fight taking place in the clinch as well, but in the end it was Franklin’s superior ground skills that got him the win after Rivera tapped out to an armbar in the third and final round.

While using the argument that if fighter A beats fighter B and if fighter B beats fighter C, never seems to hold up in MMA, it can be a useful tool to compare how each stacked up to his opponent, especially in this case because both fighters went to the final round with Rivera in their respective match-ups.

Franklin is an outstanding striker who is very good in the clinch but unless he has great position on his opponent, it may not be in his best interest to stay so close to Loiseau who will throw elbows at any moment. The champ does have superior hands and if this becomes a boxing match, it’s not likely that Loiseau will be able to keep up with Franklin, especially if it goes to later rounds as Franklin has excellent conditioning and endurance.

Loiseau would probably welcome a fight that takes place in the clinch, more than likely if he can press Franklin against the cage and move out to go for his patented elbow strikes. While his elbows are deadly, Loiseau possesses many attributes that could win him the fight, and he is not afraid to go for unorthodox strikes to gain him the upper hand.

What will be interesting to see is if Franklin gets in any kind of trouble on his feet will he go for the takedown and move the fight to the ground? Most people haven’t had a chance to see Franklin’s ground work outside of his win against Rivera but he has outstanding submissions and ground and pound. In both of his last two fights, Loiseau has gone to the ground with his opponents and given up his back but neither were able to finish him. Don’t look for that to be the case if Franklin has a similar position. Training with Jorge Gurgel for many, many years has yielded Franklin a very good ground game and he is as unrelenting there as he is on his feet. If this fight goes to the ground and Loiseau has to pull guard, don’t be surprised if the battle ends right there.

Rich Franklin has never gone to a single decision in his entire career and it’s not likely that this will be his first. Loiseau has to know that this is biggest fight of his career, but he did headline the Ultimate Fight Night show in his match against Tanner and didn’t seem to let pressure affect him at all.

It will all be put to bed when Rich Franklin looks to go for a second straight defense of his middleweight title when he steps in to fight the ever dangerous, David “The Crow” Loiseau at UFC 58.