A Case For "Ace": Rich Franklin Is HOF WorthyDebates are made all the time about whether or not a fighter is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame when he retires. Let me start this off by saying that the UFC does not have a proper Hall of Fame. There is no induction ceremony; there is no physical hall of fame you can visit to admire past legends. So whether we are talking about the UFC's list of Hall of Famer's on their website, or a proper MMA Hall of Fame yet to be created, there is one thing for certain. Rich Franklin deserves in.
At least in this writer's opinion. I want to say at the start of this article that this is strictly my opinion. Franklin is a world class fighter and has been for the better part of the last decade. However many people will try to make arguments against him. There are those who will say he only defended his title twice, and the competition he fought as champion wasn't very good. There are those who will say he doesn't have enough wins over top competition when they were in their prime. I will address these criticisms, but when discussing a potentially Hall of Fame worthy resume, we first need to start earlier in Franklins career.
Franklin started his career in 1999, and went 11-0 with 1 no contest from '99-2003. He made his UFC debut in 2003 as a light heavyweight, knocking out Evan Tanner in the first round. This is notch number one in Franklin's list of accomplishments. Tanner was ranked as the 9th best light heavyweight in the world at the time when Franklin stopped him with strikes in less than three minutes. Tanner was 27-3, and 6-1 in the UFC with his only loss being to then champion Tito Ortiz. Franklin would add two more wins to his resume before leaving the UFC to fight an unknown fighter in Japan. That fighter was Lyoto Machida. Franklin was knocked out, losing his first ever MMA fight. Machida would win his next 12 fights in a row and capture the UFC light heavyweight title.
Franklin then won his next four in a row, including his UFC middleweight debut against Jorge Rivera. His next bout was his chance to shine. Franklin fought MMA legend Ken Shamrock in the main event of the first ever live UFC event on cable TV, the Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale. Franklin knocked out the aging Shamrock in the first round. While not a high caliber win, it definitely made "Ace" a star in the public eye.
Franklin would next challenge for the middleweight title, taking on familiar foe Evan Tanner at UFC 53 in 2005. Since losing to Franklin two years earlier, Tanner dropped to 185, winning four fights in a row and capturing the UFC middleweight title. At the time of the rematch, Tanner was ranked as the number one middleweight in the world. Franklin dominated the fight, and in the fourth round the bout was stopped. Rich Franklin had won the UFC middleweight title, and with a MMA record of 20-1, and a UFC record of 5-0, Franklin was the best middleweight in the world.
After furthering his star status as a coach on season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter, Franklin fought Nate Quarry in his first title defense. Despite having an 8-1 MMA record and 3-0 UFC record, Quarry didn't have any wins that warranted him a title fight. It showed, and Franklin scored a spectacular first round knock out that lives on in MMA highlight reels to this day. He then took on surging Canadian contender David Loiseau at UFC 58: USA vs. Canada in early 2006. While Loiseau will never be looked at as a great fighter for his time, he was 14-4, and on a three fight win streak in the UFC including a stoppage win over top ranked Evan Tanner. At the time of the title fight with Franklin, Loiseau was ranked as the seventh best middleweight in the world. Franklin again dominated, and despite fighting the majority of the fight with a broken hand, Franklin won a clear cut unanimous decision. With a 22-1 MMA record, 7-0 UFC record, Franklin was the best middleweight in the world with two defenses of his UFC title. He was on top of the MMA mountain and it seemed things would stay that way for a long time.
Enter Anderson Silva.
In October 2006, Silva challenged Franklin for the UFC middleweight title coming off his impressive 49 second KO of Chris Leben. Silva brutalized Franklin in the clinch, and knocked out the reigning champion in the first round. It was shocking at the time, but looking back now there was no other outcome to be had. Franklin had lost for only the second time in his career, and has never tasted UFC gold since.
Franklin rebounded with a solid stoppage win over rising contender Jason McDonald, who was 2-0 in the UFC at the time. In his next bout, Franklin headlined the UFC's debut event in Ireland, taking a decision over number ten ranked Yushin Okami at UFC 72 in Belfast. Franklin was then given a title rematch with Silva at UFC 77 in his hometown of Cincinnati Ohio.
While he lasted longer in the rematch, the outcome was inevitably the same. Franklin was knocked out in the second round by Silva, who again dominated Franklin in the clinch. Anderson Silva has since gone on to be recognized by many as the greatest MMA fighter in history, winning a record 14 UFC fights in a row and defending his middleweight title a record nine times.
In his next two bouts, Franklin stopped Travis Lutter with strikes, and then did the same to Matt Hamill in his return to the light heavyweight division. It was at this point in time that Franklin went on a run of fights against some of the greatest legends in the history of the sport.
At UFC 93, Franklin took on former Pride middleweight (205lbs) and welterweight (183lbs) champion Dan Henderson. In a back and forth fight, Henderson won a split decision that many have disputed for years. Franklin finished the fight strong, and despite the questionable loss, looked good in the bout against an all time great. Henderson would go on to KO Michael Bisping in one of the greatest knockouts in MMA history, so maybe in was in the cards for Henderson to win against Franklin that night.
Franklin then fought in back to back 195lbs catch weight bouts with Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort. Franklin won a close fight against Silva by decision, winning fight of the night in the main event of the UFC's debut in Germany. He was then knocked out in the first round a few months later by Vitor Belfort, giving him his 5th professional loss.
Filling in for an injured Tito Ortiz, Franklin took on UFC legend Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 115. Despite suffering a broken arm from a Liddell kick early in the fight, Franklin knocked out the longtime champ at the end of the first round, ending the legendary career of the "Iceman". He dropped a decision in a competitive fight to Forrest Griffin in his next outing, before defeating Wanderlei Silva for a second time this past Saturday night in Brazil.
So there it is. Rich Franklin's career, which might I add is not done just yet. Despite being 37 years old, Franklin showed against Silva that he still has gas left in the tank. His striking is as sharp as it ever was, and he now looks to make a run at the UFC middleweight title one last time. While another UFC title is highly unlikely, his legacy is already set in stone. 29-6 MMA record, 14-5 UFC record. Former UFC middleweight champion with two successful title defenses. Notable wins over Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva (twice), Evan Tanner (twice), Yushin Okami, Matt Hamill, Ken Shamrock, and David Loiseau. Fought in the main event of 11 UFC cards, going 7-4 in those fights. There is no doubt that one day Franklin will join the likes of Liddell, Couture, Hughes, and Gracie in the UFC Hall of Fame, whether it is real or not. And he will deserve it.
**Rankings noted in the article from: http://www.fightmatrix.com/historical-mma-rankings/generated-historical-rankings/
While not official, these rankings are very accurate to the MMA scene at the dates noted**
Published by Jeff Zanatta - Mon, 25 Jun 2012 01:42