Act II - A former King's last quest for the crown: Rich Franklin has had a great career, in 37 career bouts, he's never tasted defeat in consecutive matches. 30-7 with losses to nothing but MMA and combat sports royalty, The Phenom,The dragon, The Spider, Hendo( robbed imo), Griffin, Le. "Ace" deserves more respect than he gets. His two fights with the Spider has relegated him to nothing more than a highlight reel in the eyes of many. A forgotten great whose accomplishments are but a corpse. Relegated to dissection then eventual burial - "ehh he wasn't good enough".
The Chael Sonnen brainwashed masses would have you believe a man who accomplished what their hero couldn't, in winning and defending major championship gold is nothing more than a "slow, nonathletic, math teacher". Prior to the first Silva fight, Franklin was 22-1-1 , his lone loss coming at the hands of some unknown Heavyweight karate guy with just 2 fights under his belt. Some guy named, Lyoto Machida. The match was contested at a 214 pound catch-weight, and resulted in the first (T)KO loss of Franklin's pro career.
For my money, Franklin was an innovator, taking elements from different striking arts and creating a MMA centric striking style that suited his strengths. A mixed martial artist through and trough, in Silva he met a man with the same understanding but on a completely different level, coupled with an unprecedented set of tools with which to execute his vision. Their clash was a monumental moment, not only in middleweight history but in MMA history.
Here, you have a former great welterweight prospect, the first man to defeat Hayato "mach" Sakurai, pitted against the most dominant Middleweight champ to date. Furthermore, the duel would serve as the launching pad for the legend of the Spider. A magician set to cast an everlasting spell, a striking revolution. A grappler - centric, biased, and dominated sport, finally, gets a striking coach.
2006: "Ace" was the company Golden boy. With a compelling story, the math teacher turned fighter had the Zuffa machine fully behind him. He was destined to reach the pantheon of revered company greats (and maybe most importantly) PPV draws. Guys with names that need not be uttered, "The Iceman", "Captain America", "The Huntington beach bad boy". He was featured prominently in documentaries, magazines & the like.
He ruled the middleweight division with an iron fist, defended his crown twice, in highlight reel fashion.
In 2006, Rich Franklin was undoubtedly, the man, then - along came the Spider.
In combat sports, it's rare that you have a torch passing situation that involves two greats in or reaching their prime. Even rarer still, seeing the canyon sized gap in talent between two eras as violently illustrated as it was in Silva/Franklin I. The Rich Franklin era came to a shocking and brutal end on October 14, 2006, amidst a hail of kicks and knees. The surgical dismantling, began and ended in the Thai clinch. A position where Rich (would later say) he felt his size and strength advantage would rule the day against the former 168 pound phenom.
The dethroned king, though battered, broken, disfigured and embarrassed in front of his friends, spouse and in laws - first, glances up at the big screen, laments the sad state of his nose, shakes his head, "fuck". Next, he gently nods & raises his drink towards his successor, "obrigado"(ed note: he just thanked the man for giving him the worst ass whupping of his career, wow). Classy.
Their rematch, almost exactly a year removed from their first encounter, was partly due to Zuffa trying to get returns on the Rich Franklin investment and partly due to Rich truly being better than everyone but the champ. So, after rattling off 2 impressive wins, one being a UD over middleweight great, Yushin Okami, "Ace" was back on the door step of glory, with a shot at redemption. In his hometown.
TO BE CONTINUED....