Wanderlei Silva vs. Rich Franklin: What's Next for Franklin?
(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Put into a position where they had nothing to lose, Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva put on a great show to cap off UFC 147. Both men fought their hearts out and in the end, Franklin once again found his hand raised.
The main event of UFC 147 was originally slated to be a contest between Silva and Vitor Belfort but Franklin stepped in to replace an injured Belfort. While fans complained about having to pay for a rather lackluster PPV on paper, both Franklin and Silva gave fans their money's worth.
While fans are talking about Silva retiring, Franklin finds himself in an interesting position following his victory. He's faced a who's-who of former champions in the past few years but isn't on anyone's title contender list.
At 37, a title run isn't likely for Franklin's career plans but that doesn't mean "Ace" will be stuck fighting a bunch of no-names in the future.
Alan Belcher is coming off perhaps his biggest victory to date after stopping Rousimar Palhares in May. Belcher showcased his versatile style that combines both effective striking and grappling en route to a TKO victory.
The win was Belcher's fourth in a row and also his second since returning from a career-threatening injury. Although considered a "middle of the pack" type of fighter, Belcher is among the most talented in the game with multiple black belts and experience in a number of martial arts.
A bout with Rich Franklin could serve a dual purpose for the UFC. If Belcher were to defeat Franklin, it'd be an established name to build Belcher up and it also makes for a guaranteed great fight given the styles of both men.
It's also a fight that Franklin could take knowing he can be competitive in and not simply a name for a younger guy to defeat.
Although Michael Bisping believes he is next in line for a title shot or a No. 1 contender's bout, a match with Rich Franklin would be an "easier" fight after recovering from surgery.
Franklin and Bisping could've met at UFC 100 but Franklin lost the coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter: USA vs. UK to Dan Henderson. It would be an easy fight to sell as Bisping is one of the best hype-men in the company and Franklin is a fairly popular name with MMA fans.
A potential fight between these two could be a barometer for both men. The surgery may have been minor for Bisping but everyone knows that cage rust can be a huge issue in a guy's first fight back. For Franklin, a fight against the Brit would give fans (and perhaps Franklin himself) an idea of where he ranks in the middleweight division.
Brian Stann was originally slated to welcome Hector Lombard to the UFC but a shoulder injury forced the former Marine out of his fight. Once Stann recovers, Rich Franklin could be the perfect guy to welcome Stann back into the fold.
Both Stann and Franklin are among the most popular fighters in the division and would be great opponents for each other. Stann doesn't need to face an upper-tier guy as he is only two fights removed from that awful performance against Chael Sonnen at UFC 136. A fight and a win over Franklin gives Stann a big name opponent to begin to build some momentum off of.
For Franklin, the fight with Stann gives him more competition than a bout with Wanderlei Silva as Stann is one of the hottest prospects in the division. It would be a bout against a top-10 guy whom Franklin could also defeat.
If Franklin could defeat Stann, the ageing veteran may find himself "in the mix" once more.
The Winner of Cung Le vs. Patrick Cote
Rich Franklin was originally scheduled to meet Cung Le prior to stepping in at UFC 147. It would only make sense for Le and Franklin to be matched up once again should Le emerge victorious. The bout would be an entertaining clash as Le brings an exciting fighting style and Franklin has never been known to be in a boring fight.
Cote would also be an interesting opponent as the Canadian has earned another trip to the UFC after putting together four-straight victories. The latest victory for Cote was a first-round KO of Gustavo Machado in Brazil.
Both men have established names within the MMA community and would be worthy opponents for Franklin given his standing in the division.