In the second significant light heavyweight bout on the UFC 126 main card, long-time UFC veterans and former champions Forrest Griffin (17-6, 7-4 UFC) and Rich Franklin (28-5-0-1, 13-4 UFC) will square off in a top ten match-up that will likely keep the winner in the discussion as a potential title contender in the future. Interestingly enough, both fighters are coming off wins despite being injured in the process. Franklin broke his arm in the early minutes of the first round against Chuck Liddell at UFC 115, but he managed to come back later in the round with a stiff right hand that dropped the former champion.
Griffin's victory over Tito Ortiz at UFC 106 was a bit less dramatic as he narrowly edged the former champion. Following the fight, it was revealed that both Ortiz and Griffin had suffered injuries or had existing injuries entering the contest. Griffin was later matched up with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 114 in May, but suffered a shoulder injury in preparation for that match-up. The injury required surgery to be repaired, and it sidelined the former UFC light heavyweight champion for a lengthy period of time.
Griffin's layoff has created some doubt as to whether he can perform at a high level in his return to the Octagon after nearly a year-and-a-half. Furthermore, there is a contingent of fans who are under the impression that Griffin may be on his last legs at the top of the division, mostly due to his performance against Ortiz. That's a lofty opinion, especially with only one fight serving as evidence.
Griffin's name has been synonymous with gutsy performances since his inception in the UFC. At UFC 76, he managed to defeat current UFC champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua despite the heavily one-sided criticism that he was no match for the PRIDE veteran. The same could be said for his championship title victory against Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 86. Can Griffin produce the heroics that brought him where he is today in this clash with Franklin?
The obvious issue of size has been beaten to death by fans and media alike over the last few days. Griffin normally sits at a heavy 230 to 240 pounds and cuts down to 205 while Franklin has to bulk up in order to make the 205 pound weight limit. By fight time, we could be looking at a 20 to 30 pound advantage for Griffin, which lends credence to the notion that Griffin will hope to bring this fight to the ground quickly.
Technically, I think Franklin has a slight edge on the feet. He will be able to move much quicker than Griffin, and his kickboxing, while not at an elite-level, has proven to be much more effective for him against tough opposition. Griffin's slow distance kicking doesn't convince me he'll blast Franklin out of the water in this fight with his strength, and his movement hasn't improved significantly. Fans watch the Ortiz fight and talk about how improved Forrest looked, but the fact of the matter is that Ortiz is one of the worst strikers in the sport, period.
Griffin's Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Robert Drysdale could give Franklin some problems on the ground, and I imagine that Franklin will aim to keep this fight standing for as long as possible. If he can do that, I think he can take advantage of Griffin's defense to strikes over the course of three rounds and edge him on the scorecards. Strangely, I think Griffin has a very good chance to win, but I can't trust his defense against Franklin, who is a much more seasoned puncher. Franklin via decision.