History in the Making: Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva bring Octagon action to Germany at UFC 99

Photo via UFC

"This is a fight for the fans."

That's the phrase said by just about any Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) employee when asked about tonight's (Sat., June 23, 2012) UFC 147 main event between Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin.

In layman's terms, it means this 190-pound catchweight fight is largely meaningless but it might be fun. As far rankings and title contendership go, yes, the main event means almost nothing. But meaningless? Hardly.

A loss for either man could very well lead to retirement.

"The Axe Murderer" has looked like anything but since suffering three knockouts in five fights to Mirko Filipovic, Dan Henderson and Quinton Jackson. Despite coming off a win, it's been less than a year since the last time he was viciously put to sleep.

Since having his face rearranged by Anderson Silva, Franklin's only place seems to be filling in when a fighter drops out due to injury. In fact, it's exactly what led to tonight's rematch.

These two are living on borrowed time and each man's performance tonight might very well dictate the future of both of them.

Before they square off in Brazil, though, let's take a look back at their first encounter at UFC 99, the first Octagon main event in German history.

Let's go.

The American takes the center of the blood-stained Octagon forcing Silva to circle around the perimeter. The Brazilian seems to be taking the role of the counter puncher but Franklin is hesitant to pull the trigger, leaving "The Axe Murderer" with next to nothing to play off of.

Silva begins throwing leg kicks, hoping to slow his opponent down but "Ace" finds some success in straight left counters, one of which manages to tag the Brazilian square on the jaw.

Franklin begins to score more often as Silva begins to fall back into his tried and true method of winging huge hooks around. The American is able to use tight boxing to counter the looping punches and also lands a body kick while avoiding a punch from Silva.

Midway through the round, things are looking great for Franklin.

He's avoiding or blocking almost every strike Silva throws his way -- as in the case of two headkicks the Brazilian throws in the latter half of the round -- while peppering away with his own strikes. That is until "Ace" throws a kick to Silva's body which connects but "The Axe Murderer" manages to catch.

He tosses the former UFC middleweight champion to the mat and lands in Franklin's guard. While there, both men are active; Silva from the top and Franklin from his back. The Brazilian tosses punches his opponent's way while also crashing elbows down while "Ace" uses his own punches and hammerfists to keep "The Axe Murderer" from unleashing a flurry of offense.

Silva stands up while holding onto Franklin's feet, looking to land a huge diving punch but the American is able to scramble to his feet and pin his opponent against the cage with a little less than a minute remaining. Silva threatens with a guillotine but "Ace" slips out as he pulls guard and drops to the mat.

There, Franklin gives his Brazilian foe a taste of his own ground and pound medicine before Silva is able to gain a vertical base.

"Ace" spends the first half of the second round replicating his gameplan from the first which was to avoid the Brazilian's fury while landing his own strikes. As the seconds tick away, you can almost see Silva's composure start to strip away leaving only the wild beast made famous in PRIDE.

Franklin begins to time his opponent's strikes perfectly and he lands two perfect counters, one of which drops Silva momentarily. It's not until the final minute when it seems Silva might have a chance to pull off the win.

A lazy inside leg kick is thrown by Franklin and Silva takes full advantage of his opponent's hands being down when he cracks him on the jaw with a solid left and then hammers home a right hook to the side of the American's head.

"Ace" noticeably wobbles and backs up towards the cage. He manages to keep Silva at bay long enough to circle away to the center of the Octagon but it's not enough to keep "The Axe Murderer" from pouncing. Silva attacks with full force but is unable to put Franklin down.

The Brazilian backs off after the attack and it seems his first weight cut -- despite it being a catchweight of 195-pounds -- is having quite an effect on his stamina. To Franklin, it's old hat. For Silva, it's an entirely new sensation.

A headkick from Franklin is partially blocked and wobbles Silva to the mat but the American loses his balance and slips. As both men retreat to the corner when the round ends, you can tell they're boh exhausted.

For the remainder of the bout, Franklin is able to mostly avoid the danger he found himself in late in the second round and leaves little doubt in the mind of anyone watching he won the fight. Even when Franklin gets baited into Silva's forte of standing and banging, he is able to one-up the former PRIDE champion.

That was almost three years ago to the day.

Since then "The Axe Murderer" has had three fights at middleweight proper, scoring a decision win over Michael Bisping, suffering a brutal knockout loss to Chris Leben while putting Cung Le to sleep in vicious fashion. Franklin has hopped between catchweights and light heavyweight with mixed success.

Both men are not long for the cage.

Will we get a repeat of the fight in Germany?

Or will Silva exact a measure of revenge?

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