(DISCLAIMER) I understand that rankings are 100% subjective, and that two people could watch the same fighter progress through his whole career, and end up thinking exact opposite things about said fighter. But I'm going to try to break down, and decipher, where some of these guys stand, in the eyes of its smartest fans (yes, that is us BElitists).
Alright, Round 2 of this little series that I'm trying to do here. Last time, we discussed B.J. and if he was an All time great/elite fighter. The results came back pretty overwhelming with over 60% saying, yes, we should consider BJ one of the all time greats.
Next up, we are going to be discussing one of my all time favorite fighters, Rich Franklin.
Rich Franklin might be one of the most under appreciated fighters of his time. Currently he's fighting at light Heavyweight, but he will be known for his run in the Middleweight Division. Rich is a guy that would do whatever his company asks him to do, such as moving from Middleweight to Light Heavyweight, as well as fighting at 195 pounds to accommodate guys the UFC is trying to push (Wanderlei, Vitor). Yet you never hear a complaint out of Rich. Many other fighters might say that beating Wanderlei at 195 doesn't help them in either the MW or the LHW division, yet Rich said Ok and keeps plugging along.
Now lets discuss where Rich belongs (besideds in the UFC hall of fame):
1. He beat almost everyone that the UFC put in front of him, during his prime. Prior to Anderson Silva's arrival to the UFC, Rich was the MW kingpin. He fought, and beat most everyone that the UFC put in front of him, including late legend Evan Tanner, Ken Shamrock, as well as young lions like Nate Quarry, Yushin Okami, Travis Lutter, Matt Hammil, Jason McDonald, Edwin Dewees, Jorge Rivera, and David Loiseau.
This was also at a time where the UFC didn't have everyone locked into exclusive contracts, so while running up a 7-0record in the UFC, Rich was taking fights outside of it...and winning. Prior to Anderson Silva, Rich had an impressive record of 22-1 (his only loss coming via destruction to some young no-name guy...Lyoto Machida, ever heard of him?). This in its self is what makes Rich so impressive, but that's not the only thing.
2. The way he fights. In 34 fights, Rich Franklin has only been to 4 decisions(with only losing one via split decision to Dan Henderson, after an accidental Eye Poke, which might have cost Franklin the fight).
Not only is Franklin a finisher, but he has an arsenal of weapons to beat you with. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brown belt under the tutelage of Jorge Gurgle (yes, the same guy who is allergic to taking fights to the ground), Rich has shown impressive BJJ that has translated into many wins in the octagon, with 10 winscoming from submissions. He had one of the more impressive escapes, when he was able to roll out of a tight armbar that "The Michael Jordan of BJJ" had him in, one that 99% of fighters would have tapped to.
But while his BJJ was exceptional, his striking is what set him apart. 15 of his winshave come either from KO or TKO, and his power in his hands is underrated (just ask Chuck or Nate Quarry). He's had highlight reel head kick KO's, as well as brutal ground and pound.
But what makes it all the more impressive, is the fact that most of it (at least in the beginning of his career) was self taught. Watch instructional DVD's Rich honed his skills in his spare time while he was teaching High School math full time (how could I leave that out?).
Rich, sporting his perpetual black eye.
Now, on to the negatives.
1. He fought and beat everyone, except the greats. Sure, he destroyed most of the fighters put in front of him, but when it came down to fighting the best of the best, he wasn't able to pull out the wins.
His fights against Anderson Silva need no recap. He was brutalized in both fights, and it subsequently sent him out of the MW division. He fought Dan Henderson at LHW to determine the a top contender for the MW division (weird, right?), and dropped a split decision. Then when it came time for Vitor to be introduced to the UFC (for a 3rd time), Rich stepped up to the plate....And got beat down in 3 minutes.
A win over Wanderlei Silva was subject to much criticizm as many felt that Rich actually lost the fight.
The fact is, while Rich was able to beat so many opponents, he was never able to be the best of the best. Sure all those guys listed above are good fighters, but, with an exception to Okami, none have the chance to ever be a Champion.
(Facial reconstruction compliments of Anderson Silva)
2. While in his prime, he never fought the best middleweights in the world:
Matt Lindland was on a tear, and should have been the #1 contender, yet was released by the UFC after 2 straight wins.
Frank Shamrock, arguably the best 185 lbs fighter in the world, retired before ever facing Rich.
Jeremy Horn, while often known in the UFC for his fights against LHW King Liddell, was considered (around 2005-06) to be one of the best MW's in the world.
His fight against Henderson, the MW kingpin in Japan, happened about 3 years after each fighter was in their championship prime.
While probably not Rich's fault, since the other fighters weren't in the UFC at the time, it is something that fans might look at and determine that, while impressive, Rich's resume is missing fights against real, legit top 10 fighters.
There you have it fight fans. Is Rich one of the best ever? Or a product of the UFC? Should we consider him along with the greats like Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Hughes? Or will he forever be remembered as the man who got beat down by Anderson Silva (twice).