Come on. Can anyone really tell me that this fight doesn't make perfect sense at this point in time? Two Veterans of the sport, two of the few legends still relevent in todays rankings, and two men that when given the chance will ALWAYS do their best to put on a show. Any close follower of MMA should sit up a little bit straighter in their computer chair and go "My god i think this fight would be gold!" when they hear these two names mentioned together.
But lets not get too carried away. As fans, we often clamour for Joe Silva and the boys to put together the fights that will have us standing and screaming at our tv's, but in reality might not make a whole lot of sense in terms of the fighters' careers. But in a match-up between legendary pride veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and the UFC's go-to guy Rich Franklin, i see a fight that appeals as much to the fighters themselves as it does to us fans.
By taking a close look at each fighter, it begins to become quite obvious that these two men are at very similar points in their respective fighting carreers.
Lil Nog's career took off in PRIDE, where he defeated some of the top guys of the sport, including Alistair Overeem (twice), Dan Henderson,Kazushi Sakuraba, and gave Maricio Shogun Rua a serious run for his money in PRIDE's 2005 middleweight grand prix. Like his twin brother Minotauro, he is a BJJ ace, and is extremely dangerous on the ground. Not only that, but he has very impressive striking credentials, which include being the 2006 and 2007 Brazilian super heavyweight champ in boxing, as well as taking home a bronze medal in boxing at the 2007 Pan american games. Latin america loves boxing. To hold a resume' like that in that region of the world is no joke. But since coming to the UFC, he's had mixed results. A stellar knockout of Louis Cane was followed by an uninspiring win over Jason Brilz, and in his last two fights hes dropped decisions to rising prospects Ryan Bader and Phil Davis. Despite back to back losses, he is still ranked as the #10 light heavyweight in the world as of March. If he wants to keep that ranking, he needs a big name win on his resume', and fast.
Rich Franklin was once a young, ambitious top prospect in the UFC way back when. What i find truly amazing is the fact that from his knock out win over an aged Ken Shamrock in 2005, right up to present day, Rich has managed to constantly stay in the mix and relevent in TWO UFC divisions. And while talks of him now entering the twilight years of his career are now beginning to surface, a quick look at his last five fights will show that he isnt slowing down- Dan Henderson, Wanderlei silva, Vitor Belfort, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin. Yes, hes alternated wins with losses in those last five fights, starting with a close decision loss against Henderson. But now i ask you, does that really take away from him? I say hell no. The man is 36 years old. and everywhere the UFC has asked him to go, hes gone. A title holder at 185, catch-weight bouts at 195, 205 pound matchups against some of the true legends at lightheavyweight...you name it, Rich "ace" Franklin has probably done it if it falls between 185-205 pounds. But in his last bout against Forrest griffin, Franklin was unable to turn the fight into a technical brawl, and was out muscled by the much larger Griffin. The UFC is almost out of legendary veterans to match Rich up against...almost.
This fight is exactly the next step both fighters need to take in their careers. Despite the awe that surrounds the Nogueira brothers' ground skills, if Lil Nog can manage to keep the fight standing, he often will, and will look to drop his opponents with a vicious left hook while he's at it. But in his last two bouts, he's been controlled by young, powerful wrestlers, and has been unable to fight through such tough stylistic match ups. Franklin has also shown that when he's allowed to stand and bang he is more than a match for the best strikers the UFC has to offer (just ask Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva) but when big 205ers choose to use their size advantage against him, he has difficulty finding an answer. But put these two against eachother, and it will be guarenteed fireworks. Both men will stand toe to toe, will trade strikes, and will put on a show like the countless others that made them so famous in years past.Both fighters seem to be taking 1 step back for every one they take forward recently, and a win against a big, seasoned name is just what each man needs to stay relavent in the division. Rich is looking for a summer return, and Lil Nog just lost without serious injury this March. Throw these two warriors against each other this Summer, before time takes some of the appeal out of this bout once and for all. UFC Rio anybody? I would be honoured to hear you're thoughts.