Rich Franklin has always been considered an elite level mixed martial artist. The former UFC Middleweight Champion defeated Wanderlei Silva this past Saturday night and puts himself back on the map in the UFC’s crowded Middleweight division. Who should he face on his way up the ladder? Let’s take a look.
Rich Franklin holds a record of 29-6, and of those 29 victories, 25 of them came by way of TKO or submission, making him one of the most exciting fighters to watch. Popular not only because he fights an exciting style, but because he’s a genuinely good person, the former high school math teacher once again finds himself on the verge of a very difficult climb into title contention.
Some people will have you believe that defeating Wanderlei Silva isn’t a big deal these days. Some will try to lead you to believe he’s washed up and defeating him means little. Those people are wrong. Silva still possess the killer instinct and dangerous striking style that made “The Axe Murderer” one of if not the most devastating fighters of the past decade. Defeating him is a big deal, and it doesn’t come easy.
Rich has been in with virtually everyone who was at any point considered a title contender, but there are some fights still on the table for Franklin as he looks to get in title contention.
Michael Bisping: This would be a fun fight, and one that the UFC could sell as good vs. evil. Of course the implication being that Michael Bisping is a bad guy and quite unpopular. It would be a test for Rich as Michael Bisping has become one of the best fighters in the middleweight division.
Brian Stann: You couldn’t bill this as good/evil because both fighters are well liked and good guys. However, Stann was blasted against Chael Sonnen and it is possible that despite being a good fighter, Stann is not ready for the top level of talent in the UFC. It could be a good way for Rich to pick up a win over a highly regarded fighter.
Chael Sonnen: Let’s be honest, Chael Sonnen is likely a week removed from being separated from consciousness by an angry Anderson Silva. Chael is tough, and he can try and make it ugly, but in my opinion, Anderson will take Sonnen down, and in a big highlight reel fashion. If he loses, Chael might walk away, but if he doesn’t a fight with Rich could get the winner back in the title picture, if Rich gets another win in the meantime. It could be billed as another good vs. evil as well, which the UFC would love.
Mark Munoz: Mark Munoz is a talented fighter, but like Stann he might be getting too much hype, before he’s actually ready. He’s looked awesome in his past four fights, and he will fight the undefeated Chris Weidman on July 11th, so the winner would make sense for Rich Franklin.
Vitor Belfort: A rematch with Vitor, this time at 185 could be interesting. It would also be very hard for Rich to leapfrog Vitor in line for the title shot without either defeating Vitor or Vitor losing elsewhere. Rich filled in for Belfort in the Wanderlei Silva fight, and perhaps earned a rematch with the victory. It would be a fight fans would be interested in.
As Rich Franklin tries to step through the minefield that is the Middleweight division, one thing is clear. He’s only lost twice at Middleweight in his career and those fights were both to Anderson Silva. Other than that, he’s perfect at Middleweight. People might want to write him off because he’s lost 3 of 6, but those losses came to bigger fighters who are considered the best in the world. He lost to former Light Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort. Losing to those fights, at catch weights or at Light Heavyweight should not keep Rich from getting in the title mix at Middleweight.
If Rich Franklin can put two wins together against the fighters mentioned above, he will likely get another shot at Anderson Silva.