twitter google

UFC 88: Pondering Rich Franklin’s future at light heavyweight and other post-show thoughts

Last night at UFC 88 former middleweight champion Rich Franklin made a successful return to the UFC’s light heavyweight division, where he’s likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

The question is, does he belong there?

While Franklin was impressive in finishing Matt Hamill with a swift kick to the liver in round three, he hardly looked dominant up to that point. Franklin is a well-rounded fighter who is clearly capable of holding his own in the UFC’s 205 division. But why settle for mediocrity when you can be the second best fighter in the world at the weight class below? At 185 pounds, Franklin is one of the masters of the middleweight domain. But at 205 pounds, I think he’s going to tread water in the UFC’s stacked light heavyweight division.

After his second loss to Anderson Silva, it was clear that something had to change for Franklin. Facing the likes of Travis Lutter at 185 pounds is a low-risk but even lower reward situation. The risk is that after having faced some of the world’s best at middleweight and defeated most of them, Franklin could possibly lose to a lesser opponent if he’s unable to feel properly motivated while training.

But is a move to light heavyweight the answer to the UFC’s Rich Franklin problem?

Timing is everything and the time for him to move to 205 isn’t now but was two years ago when he was the middleweight champion and there didn’t appear to be anyone left for him to beat at 185 until Silva waltzed into the UFC and demolished Chris Leben on Spike TV. Not to mention, the depth at light heavyweight in the UFC at the time was nothing like it is now.

While Franklin can beat the Matt Hamills of the world at 205, how would he do against the likes of Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Chuck Liddell, Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, and current champion Forrest Griffin? We already know he’s lost to Machida so how is he going to survive in the UFC’s stacked light heavyweight division? Franklin said he doesn’t want to be a middleweight gate keeper but if he starts taking somewhat winnable fights against the likes of Keith Jardine, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Jon Jones, Andre Gusmao, and Thiago Silva, doesn’t he essentially become a gate keeper at light heavyweight?

He turned in a solid performance last night and defeated a credible opponent, yet I am just not excited about Franklin competing at 205 pounds. It seemed like a cool idea a couple years back, but not now. No, a third go round with Silva is not an option but I’d still love to see Franklin stay at middleweight and participate in big fights against the likes of Dan Henderson, Nathan Marquardt, and Michael Bisping. There’s also always Thales Leites and Demian Maia if they can get a few more wins.

A big reason for the move to a new weight class is to get away from Silva. But guess who just competed at 205 in July and guess who might return to light heavyweight if he’s able to defeat Patrick Cote at UFC 90 on Oct. 25? The idea of both Franklin and Silva graduating from 185 at the same time makes little sense since their undisputed status as 1-2 at middleweight is the cause for stagnation when it comes to the UFC middleweight title picture. Silva is the one who cleaned up 185, not Franklin. If anyone should make the move, it should be Silva. And if the flirtation between Silva and the UFC’s light heavyweight division continues, the need to vacate the middleweight title might arise. At that point, who better to challenge for the vacated title than Franklin?

Other UFC 88 thoughts:

– I felt it was a good show from top-to-bottom. Aside from Rashad Evans’ incredible knockout, there was nothing really amazing, but there was nothing terrible either and every fight was entertaining. Kudos to the UFC for getting the Tim Boetsch vs. Mike Patt and the Jason MacDonald vs. Jason Lambert fights on the air for a total of seven-of-nine fights making the telecast.

– Some people might question Hamill for going down because of a kick to the body but a kick to the liver is no ordinary kick to the body. I’ve only received one kick to the liver and it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced. First, I was glad I was sparring on an empty stomach because I lost all control of my bowels. Had I eaten that morning, I would have wasted a perfectly good pair of MMA shorts. My lower body felt paralyzed and a jolt of pain went up through the center of my chest all the way into my brain. Matt Hamill, I feel your pain.

Matt Brown was robbed against Dong Hyun Kim. There was no gray area: Brown won that fight. Usually when Cecil Peoples goes against the other two judges in a fight he gets it wrong. But Atlanta must be bizarro world because last night he got it right and the other two judges got it wrong. Usually Doug Crosby is on the money so I’d love to know how he saw that fight. But just because he’s right quite often doesn’t mean he got it right last night. What MMA needs is an independent organization that evaluates judges on a regular basis and reports back to the commissions. A judge is going to make mistakes and isn’t going to get every call right. But if there is a repeated pattern of poor judging, there is no mechanism in place for a commissioner to make the call to remove a judge that he is responsible for hiring. Nobody wants to make themselves look bad. If there was an organization that graded officials then commissions could determine which judges were best qualified to preside over major matchups and which judges need to be replaced.

Martin Kampmann and Rousimar Palhares are two middleweights who belong at welterweight. Kampmann has said in the past he has no intention of dropping to 170 but he’d be a force there. He’s a great technical striker but he doesn’t have the power needed to make it to the top at 185. He had to go to the ground against Drew McFedries after he started eating bombs and it was more of the same vs. Marquardt last night, except that Kampmann couldn’t get it to the ground this time. Drop him a weight class and suddenly he starts knocking guys out and justifying the nickname “The Hitman.” Personally, I think a Kampmann vs. Georges St. Pierre fight could be amazing. As for Palhares, he is only 5’8” and has a lot of upper body bulk that I am not sure is doing him any good. At 185, he’s a middle of the road guy. At 170, he’s title contender material.

– If Palhares stays at middleweight, one fight I’d love to see is Palhares vs. Maia. I think if it went to the ground it would look like a WEC fight, except at 185 lbs. Another fight I want to see is Henderson vs. Marquardt. Joe Silva, if you’re reading this, please make it happen?

– Lambert’s hard luck continues and with a drop in weight failing to produce a win, the UFC may decide to allow him to fight outside the promotion. It was the body triangle by MacDonald that really did Lambert in. Once you lose the ability to move your hips, you have no chance to turn into your opponent’s guard. But Lambert giving up his back was a mistake in the first place. You never want to be mounted but I’d rather be mounted than give up my back. There are so many more ways to defend the mount than your back and the odds of having a fight stood up in mount are much higher than when your opponent has your back. But not giving up your back in MMA is easier said than done. When you eat a few shots while your opponent is mounted it’s human instinct to protect your face and turn over.

– When the ABC passed a bunch of rules in July, one of the new ones recommended be adopted by commissions across the country was banning the use of “smothering,” which is the act of taking your hand and putting it on the mouth of your opponent while in their guard or in mount in order to disrupt their breathing. It’s a great tool to use in a street fight and like Mike Goldberg said, it’s definitely “old school.” But the sport we watch now is referred to as MMA and is no longer known as “No Holds Barred.” I say it’s high time to get rid of such an unsportsmanlike maneuver.

– Thank you Joe Rogan for properly explaining to Goldberg the difference between a teep in Muay Thai and a straight heel kick in Kung Fu/Karate.

– I really enjoyed Henderson’s low stance employed during his fight vs. Palhares. His takedown defense was almost impeccable. It was the kind of performance that other fights are going to study and copy.

– The UFC needs an opponent for Machida at UFC 89 in October and the the perfect off-roster candidate was in the building last night in Ricardo Arona. Arona has the balls to take the fight on short notice but the problem is that he’s going to expect to be paid. The UFC apparently feels his fighting style doesn’t justify his asking price.

– I am at a loss for why Evans decided to incessantly play with his nipples during ring introductions prior to the start of the main event vs. Liddell. My wife mentioned that St. Pierre apparently did the same thing before his last fight, except not as much. I don’t know, maybe Evans was lactating?

– Where does Karo Parisyan go from here? How about some time off and then a trip to the WEC?

Follow 5OZ