When Vitor Belfort broke his hand and was forced to withdraw from his highly-anticipated rematch against Wanderlei Silva, which was set to go down at UFC 147 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 23, 2012, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) officials scrambled to fight a last-minute replacement to step up and challenge "The Axe Murderer."
Cue the always reliable company man, Rich Franklin.
"Ace" -- who was penciled in to take on Cung Le at UFC 148 on July 7, 2012 -- agreed to fill the void left by "The Phenom" and face Silva for the second time in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career. The two initially collided back at UFC 99 three years ago in a bout that was contested at a catchweight of 195 pounds.
After spending 15 minutes locked inside the cage with one of the most feared fighters in the history of the sport, while also getting to know the tendencies the ferocious Brazilian, Franklin says he still had some reservation about taking the fight, but ultimately decided it was his to win.
Check out what he told BJPenn.com after the jump:
"Initially, I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to fill in this spot. I was in Singapore on the complete opposite side of the earth preparing for a specific kind of opponent. My prep was cut 2 weeks, and I had to get on a plane immediately to come home and make adjustments necessary. I've been home a day and a half, and we have yet to do a tape breakdown on Wand again. That's like night and day. Southpaw to Conventional, aggressive vs. passive, and their styles are completely different. The core of a fighter will remain the same, but I need to evaluate whether or not Wanderlei has developed any new tricks in his game that he didn't have the last time we fought. If I didn't think I could win this fight, I would not have accepted it."
Three years removed from their first tangle, the middleweights look to get an all important win in another catchweight bout that will be very imperative for both men, who are likely in the twilight of their esteemed careers.
Their first encounter in Germany was awarded "Fight of the Night" and saw Franklin walk out of the Octagon with a unanimous decision victory, though many though it was much closer than that. Since then, "Ace" has gone 1-2, losing to the aforementioned Belfort and Forrest Griffin, while sending Chuck Liddell into retirement with a first round knockout back at UFC 115: "Liddell vs. Franklin" two years ago.
Will history repeat itself in Brazil? Or can the former PRIDE Middleweight (205 pounds) champion, Silva, find a way to adjust his game and pull out the victory over Franklin and win consecutive fights for the first time since 2006?