The Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva rematch Saturday night is the main event of UFC 147 in Brazil, and fight fans are no doubt expecting fireworks from the two veterans.
Franklin is 37 years old and has publicly admitted his career is winding down, while Silva is 35 years old and has sustained a tremendous amount of damage since joining the UFC. Both fighters first clashed during UFC 99 in 2009, with Franklin earning a hard-fought unanimous decision.
Each fighter is getting rather long in the tooth, and if Silva loses this fight, it could be the last time he steps into the UFC Octagon. Silva was training hard for a showdown with fellow Brazilian striker Vitor Belfort, and while that fight is now on the shelf, his physical conditioning likely benefited from hard training sessions.
Belfort and Franklin have different striking styles, but the expectations of a fight should be the same for Silva—avoid power shots and utilize quick strikes. If the fight enters the Muay Thai clinch, Silva must land quick, damaging knees and elbows before escaping.
Franklin vs. Silva II is scheduled as a five-round fight, so the chances of it heading to a judges’ decision seems even less likely. This will benefit the fighter able to implement his game plan and land more power shots, and that should prove to be Franklin.
I expect Franklin to be careful about his striking against Silva, forcing the Brazilian veteran to get a little bit loose. Similar to their first matchup, Franklin should be the more technical fighter as Franklin will eventually try to turn this into a sloppy slug fest. If he catches Franklin, Silva needs to pounce as quickly and safely as possible, because he can't give the former UFC middleweight champion any time to recover.
However, Silva found success in the first fight when he caught Franklin against the cage, with the southpaw uncomfortable while his cage movement is reduced. Just because Franklin may be in danger, Silva will need to pick his shots carefully, because Franklin has one-punch-knockout power.
On paper Silva, aka "The Axe Murderer," is the better power striker—which he seemingly forgot during their first meeting—so he’ll need to prevent Franklin from getting too comfortable in the cage. If Franklin finds his rhythm, it could spell the end for Silva, as Franklin’s boxing skills and heavy hands should be able to cause damage over five rounds.
If everything goes the way I envision, Franklin is going to be able to finish Silva via KO or TKO sometime in the second round. It would mark Silva’s fifth KO loss since 2006, and I would be surprised if the UFC welcomed him back into the cage again. Fighting in front of his home country, Silva will accept nothing less than maybe going out on his own shield, and he won't surrender easily.
Silva would be the second MMA legend retired by Franklin, as the American fighter previously crushed Chuck Liddell out of the cage and into the UFC office with a Round 1 knockout in 2010.