Rich Franklin faces familiar foe in Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva at UFC 147
Rich Franklin has ridden to the UFC's rescue once again.
The former middleweight champion is back to his familiar role as super sub Saturday night, filling in for the injured Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort against Wanderlei (The Axe Murderer) Silva at UFC 147 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
"Franklin is a really good fighter," said Silva, who should know having lost to him at UFC 99 in June 2009.
"I know we're going to put on a great show for the fans here in Brazil."
Franklin, a slight favourite according to the bookies, said he has no problem fighting Silva in his backyard.
"Once you get inside the cage, it's like being on stage in a play and the lights, the whole audience just blacks out anyway," said the former high school math teacher. "And the only thing that's in there is you, your opponent and your cornermen (outside) and that's about all you can hear.
"Once the fight starts, none of that other stuff will matter anyway."
The two will meet at catchweight of 190 pounds, five pounds more than the middleweight limit.
Franklin has been campaigning at light-heavyweight (205) but has recently decided to return to middleweight (185). He was due to fight former Strikeforce champion Cung Le next month at UFC 148 at middleweight and was in Singapore preparing for that matchup when he got the call late last month to face Silva.
He asked for the catchweight since his weight cut had been tailored to July 7.
The 37-year-old Franklin (28-6 with one no contest) stepped in for the injured Tito Ortiz against light-heavyweight Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell at UFC 131 in Vancouver. When asked, he has changed weight classes and fought at catchweights as needed.
It's been six fights since he last fought as a middleweight, stopping Travis Lutter in the second round of UFC 83 in Montreal in April 2008.
Since then, he has beaten Matt (The Hammer) Hamill, Silva and Liddell and lost to former champions Dan Henderson, Belfort and Forrest Griffin.
He has been out of action since the Griffin loss at UFC 126 in February 2011, thanks to an August 2011 fight that fell through with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and October shoulder surgery.
He says ring rust will not be a factor.
"Even though I haven't fought since February (2011), I was getting ready in August for the Philadelphia show and that fight ended up cancelling. But it only (got) cancelled a couple of weeks before the show and I pretty much did everything I needed to go to get ready for that fight.
"So for me it doesn't feel like I've been out of the Octagon for that long."
Franklin is also meticulous in his fight preparation, noting down every meal and workout.
The 35-year-old Silva (34-11-1 with one no contest) and Belfort were slated to meet to cap off their role as coaches on the Brazilian version of "The Ultimate Fighter." Belfort won their first meeting in 1998.
Whoever the opponent, Silva says he can't wait to get in the cage. It's been more than 10 years since the Las Vegas-based Brazilian has fought in his native country.
The former Pride champion has sandwiched wins over Le and Michael Bisping around a loss to Chris (The Crippler) Leben since losing to Franklin in Germany.
Franklin doesn't think their last fight means much.
"Past victories and losses can't really predict future victories and losses," said Franklin. "With this much time having passed, I think both Wanderlei and I are two different fighters and you can see a completely different fight come Saturday night."
Their first fight was contested at 195 pounds, with Silva then making the move from light-heavyweight to middleweight. Both men weighed in at 194.
Franklin cut Silva in the first round, telling cornerman Matt Hume "I think I broke his nose" between rounds. Franklin looked to fight from the outside in the second round but Silva found his range and hurt him several times late in a gruelling round.
Silva looked to turn it into a brawl late in the third but Franklin defused the situation by taking him down. The fight ended with Franklin holding the Brazilian from behind at the fence, with Silva throwing elbows behind him and Franklin returning fire with punches to the face.
The judges scored it a unanimous decision for Franklin.
Saturday's co-main event is a heavyweight bout between 35-year-old Chicago police officer Mike Russow (15-1 with one no contest) and Brazilian heavyweight Fabricio Werdum (15-5-1).
"It's very tough working both jobs," Russow said of his fighting and policing. "But I've been doing this since '07 or '08 so I'm used it now with two careers. Obviously the competition's been getting a lot harder."
Russow has quietly won five straight but says he is not getting ahead of himself in terms of where he fits in the heavyweight division.
"It's been kind of a real slow pace but I'm really just focused on this fight. I really don't want to look past anything. I just want to get through Saturday and shock everybody."
The bookies see Werdum as a 5-1 favourite.
Middleweight Daniel Sarafian had to withdraw from "The Ultimate Fighter Brazil'' finale bout on the card. Sergio (Serginho) Moraes, who made it to the semifinals of the reality TV show, will take his place against Cezar (Mutante) Ferreira.
The featherweight finale features Rony (Jason) Mariano Bezerra and GodoFredo Pepey.