Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images.
Thirty-five year old UFC Middleweight Wanderlei Silva has been fighting professionally since 1996. His UFC 147 opponent thirty-six-year-old Rich Franklin has been a pro since 1999. That's a combined 29 years of professional fighting experience and 71 years alive.
The two men have both competed on four continents -- North and South America, Europe and Asia. Both men put together winning streaks longer than a dozen fights. Both men held a major world title and defended it multiple times. Silva in Pride and Franklin in the UFC. Both men have been popular favorites in the UFC and have headlined multiple pay-per-view cards.
And their opponents read like a who's who of MMA history. Fans have seen Silva and Franklin in the cage and the ring with some of the best and most beloved fighters in the sport: Kazushi Sakuraba, Chuck Liddell, Ken Shamrock, Rampage Jackson. Lyoto Machida, Evan Tanner, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Mirko Cro Cop.
Seeing Franklin and Silva put on one more great back-and-forth battle where both men landed hard shots and both men were hurt was a bittersweet experience. Many fans were fearful that Silva would be knocked out quickly like he was by Chris Leben or in his final fight with Rampage Jackson. No one wanted to see the likable Franklin do anything but acquit himself well.
The awareness that both men are one or two KO losses away from retiring gave the whole affair a certain anxiousness. But the moment when Silva nearly knocked Franklin out in the second round had many old school fans praying for a ref stoppage that didn't come.
Hopefully Silva's credible performance will mean he'll still get a chance to rematch old rival Vitor Belfort. The two men coached the first season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil opposite one another and had been set to meet tonight but Belfort broke his hand badly a couple of weeks ago and had to pull out.