Let me get it out of the way now, I am an unabashed Wanderlei fan for life. He is by far my favorite fighter, the one who got me into the sport when I started watching Pride events back in 2000-2001. As such, this may come off as one-sided argument by an obviously partial fan looking at the situation through rose colored glasses. But I believe that a legitimate case can be made for a rematch of this fight.
Three things jumped out at me at the conclusion of this fight. One, judging overseas has been and continues to be horrendous at best. How anyone can score that fight 30-27 for Franklin is beyond me. Wanderlei obviously won the second round in my eyes, the first and third could be left for interpretation. Second, Wanderlei looked old in this fight. There was an obvious drop off between the Rampage Jackson fight and now. But this point leads to my third point. Wanderlei was visibly the slowest he has ever been in this fight with Rich Franklin. With the realization coming out that he cut 12lbs to make weight on weigh-in day, and never having cut before, he will never be an effective fighter at 185lbs.
The argument is that Wanderlei is well past his prime and all his accumulated damaged over the years is starting to rear its ugly head, that Wanderlei was old and slow Saturday night and its to be expected. But lets examine his UFC fights. He lost a fight of the year candidate decision to Chuck Liddell a year and a half ago. He came back to absolutely obliterate Keith Jardine last May. He then lost a bitter rematch with Rampage Jackson where he got caught throwing wild by a guy who’s hands have improved by leaps and bounds since they had last fought in 2004. Up until that point, his speed and footwork had actually looked improved.
If anyone has ever cut weight, you know what toll it takes out of your body. It can drain you well into the next day if you do not deplete and replenish yourself correctly. With plans of making a bigger drop to 185lbs down the road and still come to the weigh-in at 207lbs leads me to believe that Wanderlei was either not taking his weight cut seriously at all, or he was getting bad weight cutting advice from someone in his camp. The evidence that he had a bad cut was right there at about the three minute mark of the first round, when he looked completely gased out already. Any Wanderlei fan knows that although there are more than a few flaws in his game, conditioning is not one of them.
All things considered I would say that if the UFC actually has Wanderlei’s best interests at heart, which I know is a suspect idea, they would logically see that a drop to 185lbs is not the move for him. A rematch at 205lbs for himself and Franklin offers immediate answers for both fighters futures.
Wanderlei fights at his true weight class and stands an excellent chance of steal a highlight reel knockout and making himself a viable commodity for the foreseeable future. Franklin fights at 205lbs which keeps him far enough away from Anderson Silva for the time and also gives Franklin another viable fight at another dead end weight class for him. As good a fighter as Franklin is, the two fighters that dominated Franklin in his career occupy the two top spots in the two divisions that he can populate. As long as Lyoto Machida is the Light-Heavyweight champ and Anderson Silva is the middleweight champ, Franklin is not a true contender at either weight class. In the absence of a legitimate title run, they need to make viable and interesting fights for a guy who could easily get lose in the shuffle. One of those fights is a rematch with Wanderlei Silva.
I know a lot of my logic depends on how much mileage Wanderlei truly has left in the tank. I saw a fighter in the third round with a lot left to give to this sport, with the proper shepherding. I think the first step in that process is a rematch at 205lbs with Rich "Ace" Franklin.