He isn't nicknamed "The Axe Murderer" for nothing -- Wanderlei Silva (34-11) started out head-butting and fist-mashing his way through the Vale Tudo era of the sport as one of several devastating Chute Boxe fighters. After a few scattered appearances in the UFC from 1998-2000, the most memorable of which were a scintillating TKO loss via a classic Vitor Belfort flurry and a decision loss to Tito Ortiz for the light-heavyweight throne that Frank Shamrock vacated, Silva lit the luminous Pride ring on fire like never before.
Silva did so much more than just bulldoze the competition, lead off with an undefeated 15-0-2 path of destruction, lock down Pride's middleweight (205-pound) championship from 2001-2007 and break the record for the most wins (22) and knockouts (15) in the promotion's history ... he defined himself as the most feared, intimidating and bloodthirsty martial artist to walk the earth.
At a time when the focus was shifting heavily towards cerebral strategies, becoming an expert in every facet of combat, adapting Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's foundation to MMA's harsh environment and reaping the benefits of control through wrestling prowess -- Silva would burst out of his corner and swing his fists in wide, violent arcs until his opponent was counting sheep on the canvas. As much as that might sound like simple hyperbole, it was all too true and you almost had to see it to believe it.
Other UFC 147 Dissections
Simultaneously, on the side of the globe, Rich Franklin (28-6) made an intelligent drop from 205 to 185 and quickly secured the UFC's middleweight title. Though Franklin wasn't nearly as active as Silva, defending the strap just twice before Anderson Silva took over, nor did he encounter the volume and status of Silva's opposition during his reign, Franklin made a name for himself as a cunning kickboxer, a consummate sportsman and the marketability of a schoolteacher-turned-bad-ass.
To this day, the only man to defeat Franklin at 185-pounds is Anderson Silva, a pound-for-pound immortal and the most dominant contemporary UFC champion. Franklin gravitated back to 205 after dual TKOs from Silva while taking whatever big-name fights were on the table, such as Dan Henderson (split-decision loss), Vitor Belfort (TKO loss), Chuck Liddell (KO win) and Forrest Griffin (decision loss).
Now, at the tail-end of illustrious careers and with absolutely no title implications, two legends will trade leather for the sole purpose of our nostalgic amusement.
Continued in the full entry.
In their first meeting, there was a nice ebb and flow to the match with many swings of momentum. Franklin, a rangy and technical kickboxer, had the most success by keeping Silva on the fringe and sniping away with precision combinations. Silva's surges all came when he closed the gap, surrounded himself with a blur of haymakers and smashed anything nearby with a pulse.
Quite curiously, Silva spent a good amount of time in Franklin's sweet spot and tried to play the counter-punching role, but Franklin's speed, straight punches, footwork and angles won out. Franklin was wisely vigilant in keeping his left hand either glued to his chin or streaking out to attack before returning directly back home. Franklin's low kicks were a factor from outside as well, as Silva has a bit of a heavy lead leg and stays fairly flat-footed to generate his head-cleaving power.
In the center of the cage, Franklin's cunning motion prohibited most of Silva's violent advances, but Wanderlei turned the tide by springing for surprise takedowns and battering Franklin from the top or methodically steering him into a corner before unleashing his rage. Both fighters are adept on the ground; Silva has a black belt in BJJ and Franklin has a brown belt, though Franklin is more dynamic off his back. Neither have lost by submission and Silva's low center of gravity and brutish strength seemed to complement his atypical ground and pound approach.
Basically, Franklin was in the driver's seat when he was being Franklin, and vice-versa. Exchanges in the center of the cage went Franklin's way while heated sequences at phone-booth range were all Silva. X-factors in the rematch are Silva's familiarity with cutting to 185, as their first match was a 195-pound catchweight and Silva's virgin run at a lower weight, and whether Silva will be content to spend so much time playing Franklin's game on the fringe; when he pressured Franklin, the results were evident, yet he didn't do so often.
There are only a select few match ups in which I'll purposely jettison every sense of logic and common sense and pick a sentimental favorite strictly with my heart -- and this is one of them.
My Prediction: Wanderlei Silva by TKO.