Realizing that his championship days are behind him, Franklin recently announced intentions to take a glory lap inside the UFC Octagon and hang up his gloves for good, cementing his legacy inside the sport's most venerated cage.
The former middleweight champion has not fought since a brutal knockout loss to Cung Le at UFC on Fuel TV 6 in November 2012, so he remains unranked in any division at the moment.
...Which is awesome for matchmakers.
Several opponents make sense for Franklin moving forward, and his intentions to retire bring an interesting angle to any potential matchup. The fight does not have to carry implications for the future; it can simply be a fun, ratings-harvesting fight between two recognizable names, two marquee warriors.
That said, three names immediately jump to mind when considering Franklin's options. Let's check out the first.
This is my favorite matchup for "Ace."
Franklin lost a split decision to "Hendo" at UFC 93 way back in January 2009, and many felt slightly disappointed by that result and the fight in general.
The two never really waged war as anticipated, but they can make up for it here in a grand finale for the ages.
Neither man has experienced a serious deterioration in skills or athleticism since their first fight, and this matchup could easily end up providing the type of rock 'em, sock 'em slugfest that fight fans crave.
Making things even juicier, Hendo currently rides a three-fight losing streak, and, at 43 years old, one has to wonder how much he has left to offer the sport of MMA.
A double retirement fight between two future UFC Hall of Famers?
Make this one at 185, 195, or 205—I really don't care. Both fighters have fluctuated between middleweight and light heavyweight throughout their careers, so I just want them to be comfortable and in top form.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Again, I'm going with the "Legends of the Sport" card, because I think that's what Franklin deserves at this point.
"Lil' Nog" may not carry the resume of his older twin brother, but he is still incredibly marketable and respected by peers and fans alike.
If he can just stay healthy throughout a training camp, I see a potential matchup between Franklin and Nogueira as a surefire Fight of the Night contender.
Both men possess serious stand up skills and all-around polished games, and neither will shy away from a firefight.
All the ingredients are in place for an unforgettable retirement party with this one.
Winner/Loser of Wanderlei Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Wanderlei Silva and Chael Sonnen will fight after their stretch as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3, but where does each man go after that?
Silva, with a victory over Sonnen, will have consecutive victories over Stann and Sonnen to his name, so a fight with Franklin will arguably represent a step backward from that point.
However, if Sonnen loses, that will make two straight defeats for "The American Gangster," and his career will be relegated to high-profile fights sans title implications, and that is exactly what Franklin will want for his final bout.
We all know that Sonnen can sell a fight, but we've seen him reluctant to engage in trash talk whenever he truly respects his opponent (see: Stann, Brian). Franklin is one of those guys that every fighter reveres, so I worry that Sonnen will be a tad reluctant to unleash his full arsenal of verbal vitriol should this matchup take place.
Still, if anybody can take a fight to the next level before it even begins, it's Sonnen, so I'm not ruling out this idea just yet.
On the flip side, if Sonnen wins, a trilogy fight for Franklin against Silva makes sense.
Now, "Ace" has already defeated Silva twice inside the Octagon, but Silva came dangerously close to finishing the fight in their most recent encounter at UFC 147, and the two are evenly matched in all departments.
Like Hendo, Silva is one of those guys who could decide to call it quits at any moment, and, should that happen, a third installment to his Franklin series would present the perfect opportunity to make that announcement.
The edges are rough around this idea, but a situation exists where either Sonnen or Silva makes sense for Franklin's final fight.
Bonus Pick: Anderson Silva Part III
You didn't think I'd forget this one, did you?
Franklin was obliterated by Silva twice in his career, so this fight really doesn't make sense.
I don't know why I'm even considering it, but I am. The UFC fan of years past in me just won't let this one slide.
Logic aside, how awesome would this be?
If Silva loses to Chris Weidman again at UFC 168, "The Spider" will have options aplenty for his future. Not bound by the championship belt, Silva can hand-pick his opponents, and Franklin will probably pop up in this scenario.
Silva has repeatedly expressed his respect for Franklin, and his manager, Ed Soares, has even said that a third fight with Franklin is on Silva's radar.
I do not see this one going Franklin's way, but the history loaded into this one would make for an epic finale to Franklin's storied career.
Which option do you like? Do you have someone else in mind? Sound off, and we'll discuss.
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