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UFC Champ Franklin the underdog?

rich-franklin.jpgBy his own admission, Rich Franklin will face his biggest test in the Octagon to date and stiffest challenge to his middleweight world title tomorrow night against Anderson Silva at UFC 64: "Unstoppable."

The Canadian Press recently polled some UFC stars – past and present – about the championship fight this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here's what they had to say:

Matt Hughes --

"Rich is going to have the power and he's going to have the weight and the strength advantage. But I tell you what, Anderson looks very quick, he looks very technical and he's got great footwork. It's going to be one of those ‘does strength prevail over technique or does technique prevail over strength?' I'd like to think with Rich and all his experience he's had in the Octagon, that experience is going to pay off and he's going to win that fight. I hope he wins, but I can't say it's for sure."

Randy Couture --

"My heart is telling me that Rich is going to win that fight, but my head is telling me something different. I think that Rich is probably in for it on Saturday. My pick is that Rich is probably going to get beat on Saturday night. I've seen (Silva) fight several times in PRIDE. Obviously he dismantled (Chris) Leben very quickly with razor-sharp striking. I think Rich will probably try to stand up with Anderson as well and it's not going to be a very good night for him."

Tito Ortiz --

"Franklin is finally getting someone to test him. Anderson Silva is very dangerous on his feet. Great jiu-jitsu skills, his wrestling skills are good, too. It should be a tremendous fight. I'd have to lean toward Franklin. I like Franklin a lot, I think he's a great champion. Anderson Silva's actually a great opponent for him."

Ken Shamrock --

"Rich Franklin's got a lot of heart. This will be his toughest test to date with this guy, because this guy has got very, very accurate punches and he's very awkward. And he can get out of some pretty weird positions. This should be a pretty exciting fight."

Jason MacDonald (the guy who just smoked Ed Herman) --

"I've seen Anderson Silva fight a number of times and he definitely has the skills to beat Rich Franklin. But the thing with Anderson Silva is one day he shows up with his A game and the next day he shows up with his C or D game. So you just never really know what he's going to show up with. If he shows up with his best, he's definitely going to give Rich all he can handle. If he doesn't show up with his best, then I think it's going to be another short night for Rich."

This is certainly some interesting insight from several experienced fighters who know better than anyone just how good – or flawed – these two fighters are.

Without a doubt, the speculation as to whether or not Franklin can hang with Silva has created a lot of intrigue.

But where is it all coming from?

Is it because "Ace" is returning from some serious injuries suffered during his last bout against David Loiseau? Is there a "ring rust" concern? Is the fact that Silva walked through Chris Leben in less than two minutes? Or, is it stemming from the accurate and powerful punches that Silva packs combined with Franklin's "suspect" chin?

Indeed, all these questions certainly contribute to the debate. Regardless of the fight and the circumstances, however, this type of talk always seems to dog Franklin.

Nate Quarry was supposed to exploit his glass jaw. That didn't happen thanks to a devastating Franklin right hand. "The Rock" is probably still sleeping nearly a year later. The elbows of David Loiseau were going to shred the pretty face of the champion. That didn't happen, either, thanks to a total five-round beatdown of "The Crow."

So here we are again – second-guessing the underrated UFC middleweight champion. Some things never change ... just like the loss column in Franklin's UFC record.

7-0.

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