There are a lot of big sets of...courage in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It takes cajones just to step into the cage at all, daring to take the best another man has to give. Every fighter who steps up and competes has a special place in my heart.
Without their certifiable indifference for their own health and well being, we wouldn't have a sport at all. But even among this collection of lunatics, Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin stand out. At UFC 147 in Brazil on Saturday night, they did it in distinct ways.
Silva dropped his hands as the fifth and final round drew near its end, signaled to Franklin he was coming and then charged forward, throwing crazy, looping punches, ready to live or die. He didn't seem to care which, simply demanding one or the other. Demanding that something—anything—happen that makes the fans and both fighters feel alive.
Fists flew and Silva ended up knocked to one knee. True to character, that didn't seem to faze him. He was just glad to have the energy, the blood, flowing through his veins.
For Franklin, just taking the fight on short notice was a sign of incredible bravery. On just two weeks' notice, Franklin stepped in for an injured Vitor Belfort to take on the legendary Wanderlei Silva. In Silva's home country of Brazil. That's a man with either courage, confidence, a crack habit or all of the above.
Franklin tasted the best Silva had to offer; the former Pride champion knocked him down toward the end of the second round and pounced with a fury that made Shane Carwin's sustained attack on Brock Lesnar look measured and controlled.
Franklin, like Lesnar, never stopped fighting. Despite telling announcer Joe Rogan after the fight that he couldn't remember the third and fourth rounds, the former UFC middleweight champion controlled the action in both. It proved to be all the difference, earning Franklin a unanimous decision.
For Silva, it was a fight he could be proud of, even if it ends up being his last. He was still "Wanderlei Silva," if only in spurts and not for the whole fight. He finished the bout in a blaze of glory, recklessly charging forward and making Franklin, who was in flight mode, stand and fight until the final bell.
It was vintage Wanderlei Silva—glorious violence personified. It was beautiful—beautiful and amazingly stupid. His fans, whether he wins or loses, wouldn't have it any other way. We can live with Silva going down, with him being outgunned, so long as he expends all his bullets on his way to the mat.