Imagine the perfect fight, taken from a fan's perspective. It would consist of two top-notch fighters, one of whom is a champion well-known and deeply respected by the crowd, the other often discussed in whispers by those who know only that this other man is also a champ from another fighting organization--and that he too is very, very good.
Anderson "The Spider" Silva is a Muay Thai/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter who had been best known on North American shores as a former Shooto champion and top PRIDE fighter. That is, until Silva signed a contract with UFC earlier this year and made a spectacular June 2006 debut with an electrifying knockout of talented Chris Leben at 49 seconds into the first round.
In response to this victory, the UFC quickly tallied a poll on its website, asking fans to select Silva's next opponent; the majority of voters selected Rich Franklin, UFC Middleweight Champ.
While it's unknown whether the UFC voters had any bearing on Silva vs. Franklin, it is interesting to note that this match-up is exactly what fans wished to see. And of course, that's just as it should be...
So just who is the mysterious challenger? Anderson Da Silva was once a member of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, but separated himself from the camp to form the Muay Thai Dream Team. He has competed in Shooto, PRIDE Fighting Championship, and Cage Rage, and has beaten the likes of Hayato Sakurai, Lee Murray, and Carlos Newton. Many feel that Silva is one of the top fighters at 185 lbs in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts); he is also considered to be one of the most dangerous strikers in the fight game today.
That's the impressive challenger; now what about the champ? Current UFC Middleweight Champion Rich "Ace" Franklin is a Freestyle/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu MMA fighter, and is obviously one of the biggest successes in the American MMA fighting scene.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Franklin originally had quite a different career before his future in MMA became more secure. Rich was a math teacher at Cincinnati's Oak Hills High School for a few years. Franklin possesses a master's degree in education, as well as a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati.
Franklin has gone on record as saying that he first learned submission fighting from instructional video tapes--who says those babies can't help would-be fighters?
He has trained with Meat Truck Inc, and currently trains with such experts as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Jorge Gurgel, (New Generation Martial Arts), where Franklin is currently ranked as a Brown Belt in the art; with Neal Rowe, a Muay Thai instructor (Sacan Martial Arts); and with Rob Radford, a boxing instructor (Boxing 4 fitness).
Rich tends to finish his opponents by knockout, but don't let that fool you. He is a well-rounded fighter who possesses fine grappling and submission skills. Currently, his only professional loss was almost three years ago on New Year's Eve (12-31-2003) against a much larger Ryoto Machida, via knockout in the second round.
In Rich's drive up the UFC ranks, Franklin beat such well-respected fighters as Evan Tanner, Jorge Rivera, and Ken Shamrock. So far Rich's most important fight was probably in 2005, when he defeated Evan Tanner a second time; it was that win at UFC 53 which nabbed Franklin the UFC Middleweight Championship.
At UFC 56 on November 19, 2005, Franklin defended his title for the first time. The opponent? Nate Quarry, perhaps best known as a highly-touted contestant from Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter. Rich won that fight in superb fashion, by knockout in the first round, and silenced any remaining doubters.
On March 4, 2006 at UFC 58, Franklin defeated David "The Crow" Loiseau via a unanimous five-round decision to retain his championship belt, but the win came with a price. If Franklin seemed different after the early part of the match, it was almost certainly because he'd broken his left hand early in the second round. The break was bad enough to require surgery, including a metal plate and screws. It's kept Franklin out of the fight game for the last seven months.
How well has the champ healed? We're going to find out soon enough. Franklin's return match will be his title defense against Anderson Silva in UFC 64's main event on October 14, 2006.
Two champions, each at the top of his abilities. This will be one match no true fight fan will want to miss.
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