by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
Rich Franklin is a fighter who has completely remodeled the ‘face’ of the middleweight division over the past two years. Before doing so, though, Rich moved up to light heavyweight and beat down ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ Ken Shamrock in a great display of new-school fighter vs. old. Next, Rich dropped back down to his native 185-pound class and laid a brutal beating on the ever-tough Evan Tanner to win the UFC middleweight belt. Franklin then defended his belt against both Nate Quarry – via highlight reel knockout – and David Loiseau – by unanimous decision – laying even greater claim to his dominance of the 185-pound division.

But even with the amount of remodeling Franklin did in his class; a new foreman was anxiously awaiting his shot at the prize. This man didn’t care that courtesy of Rich; Ken Shamrock’s head bounced up and down on the Octagon floor like a rubber ball at a grade-school kickball game, or that Evan Tanner’s whole face was swollen practically beyond recognition from an 18-minute leather buffet courtesy of Franklin. Nor did this man care that the always formidable Nate Quarry laid limp on the canvas with a dreadfully crooked nose thanks to a Franklin left-hand, or that David Loiseau’s face was more lumpy than a bowl of chicken and dumplings after spending 25 minutes in a cage with the champ.

This didn’t faze the new guy. He just wanted a shot at the man in charge.

Enter Anderson Silva.

Silva first burst onto the UFC scene by beating the ‘Iron-chinned’ Chris Leben by knockout only 49 seconds into the first round of their UFN 5 bout. Eyes all over the world were opened. Could it be? Could there be a striker in the middleweight division more devastating than middleweight champ Rich Franklin?

At UFC 64 these questions were answered. The remodeling that Franklin did to his opponent’s faces finally came full circle back to him. You know that saying about karma…well it may well have come true here. Silva dominated Franklin the entire fight with a powerful Muay Thai clinch that left Franklin battered, beaten, and broken – maybe not his will, but no doubt his nose.

According to Franklin, “I got kneed in the face and my septum was pushed to one side and the nose was broken in a couple of different spots. They had to reset all that – they set it the night of the fight – but apparently they didn’t do a good enough job, so when I went for surgery they set all of the breaks and pushed the septum back to the center.”

From the opening bell Franklin looked stiff and uneasy. On the contrary, Silva looked focused but relaxed like he was standing by for an easy-going night out on the town. Early into the fight it became crystal clear that Franklin was outmatched…maybe not altogether, but outmatched that night for sure.

Then came the questions: Could Rich’s lackluster performance that night be the result of a long layoff between fights? Did his layoff from competition prove to be detrimental in the long run?

“I would like to think that it didn’t, but perhaps it did. I’m not one to make excuses for me losing a fight…there’s been talk on the Internet that I was sick…the fans are always looking for some reason for why you lost the fight,” Franklin said.

Rich continued, “The fact of the matter is that night I didn’t fight up to my capability and Anderson did…and with a top contender like that, that makes for a bad combination.”

One of the biggest questions raised by MMA fans since the fight is simply, “What went wrong for Rich?”

According to Franklin, “From a preparation point of view, we had planned on taking the fight to the clinch, and – I haven’t personally watched the fight myself – but I was actually doing better fighting from a distance than I thought I would, and when Anderson clinched me, I was more than happy to clinch with him.”

Rich continued, “The only problem was that we assumed that I was going to be a much larger fighter than he was and he was big and strong and he caught me off balance, and like a deer in the headlights I got hit with a couple of knees to the body and things started shutting down, and from there the fight was like quicksand…the more I struggled, the worse my situation became.”

Rich is now tasked to walk that same lonely road that many of his former opponents have trodden in an attempt to return to their former glories. Historically speaking, some fighters are successful in their returns…others aren’t. Only time will tell if Franklin is mentally tough enough to make a successful homecoming, but if the attitude and outlook he displayed during his recent interview with MMAWeekly’s SoundOff Radio is any indication, Rich will come back to the UFC with a fresh motivation, and will be more prepared both mentally and physically than we have previously seen him.

So in due time would Franklin like to erase his loss to Silva from his record?

“Well definitely, I’m going to have to…he has my belt right now. I’m looking to climb back on the horse and see what I need to do to get my belt back,” Franklin said.

Franklin’s coming back with a vengeance, so all UFC middleweights better beware…

“I’ll be back on top soon my friends,” Franklin said.