|ESPN.com: Mixed Martial Arts||[Print without images]|
Rich Franklin faced former Pride 205-pound titleholder Wanderlei Silva in a 190-pound catchweight bout Saturday in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, showing why no one should be quick to write him off as a legitimate middleweight contender -- when the former UFC champion returns to that weight.
The 37-year-old Franklin used a stiff right jab and constant footwork to register a unanimous decision over a game, but outclassed Wanderlei Silva.
All three judges scored the fight, 49-46, as did ESPN.com.
Silva nearly seized victory in the second round when he dropped and almost finished Franklin with a hard overhand right.
But beyond that point and a brief moment in the fifth, it was all Franklin, who admitted afterward he could not fully remember what happened after the second-round assault.
"From the second round to the fifth, I don't remember what happened," Franklin said. "My corner told me it was the fifth round. I like fights like that.
"When that kind of stuff happens, you remember bits and pieces. I was operating on autopilot for a while."
Franklin was aware enough to lean on his jab and footwork to pepper Silva repeatedly.
|Wanderlei Silva's moments were few and far between against Rich Franklin.|
The performance displayed Franklin's continued growth as a fighter, and why his talk of making a serious run at the middleweight belt can't be dismissed.
"I will talk to Dana (White), but the idea was to move back down to 185 and make another title run before I retire," said Franklin, who improved to 29-6 with one no contest. "I'm getting up there in years."
Silva, who turns 36 in July, isn't talking retirement. And he shouldn't.
Though he took many jabs and found it difficult to close the gap against Franklin, at no time in the contest was Silva counted out.
His punching power was a significant factor in the fight. And near the end of the fifth round, Franklin got another scare.
Silva pressed the action with less than a minute remaining in the bout and briefly hurt Franklin. But like in the second round, Silva couldn't finish the deal. He had neither enough time nor energy.
"At the end of the second round, I thought I was going to knock him out but I wasn't able to," Silva said. "I pushed it a bit too much.
"I wanted to knock him out."
Silva falls to 34-12-1 with one no contest.
When it came to striking, Cezar Ferreira was considered to be far more superior to Sergio Moraes heading into their TUF: Brazil middleweight final.
But Moraes, a high level jiu-jitsu practitioner, refused to concede the standup battle. He took many strikes from Ferreira and was hurt on several occasions, but also delivered some damaging blows.
In the end, however, Ferreira's superior standing skills were enough to earn him the victory 185-pound victory.
The fight was scored 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Ferreira. ESPN.com had Ferreira winning, 29-28.
"This is what I've been training for and been fighting for," said Ferreira after improving to 5-2.
Ferreira used his striking ability to open a cut under the right eye of Moraes. He also sent Moraes to the floor twice in the third round, first with a kick to the head and later with a straight left hand.
But Moraes didn't go down easily. He hurt Ferreira briefly in the third round with a hard elbow.
Moraes, however, needed to get this fight to the ground and failed to do so when Ferreira was hurt. As a result, he falls to 6-2.
The most difficult hurdle for Rony Mariano Bezerra before, during and after his TUF Brazil featherweight final against Godofredo Pepey, was controlling his emotions.
But the tears that flowed from Bezerra's eyes did not negatively impact his performance. He kept his cool throughout the three-round fight and withstood several wild attacks from Pepey to earn a unanimous decision.
Each of the three judges had it 29-28 for Bezerra. ESPN.com also scored the fight 29-28 for Bezerra, who cried when the fight result was announced.
"I'm very pleased and very thankful," said Bezerra, who improved to 11-3. "It's a great honor for me.
"I've felt hungry many times, and I've slept without being in a home."
Pepey (8-1) hurt his chances by failing to mount an attack once on the ground.
It takes more than an undefeated record in the UFC to make one a title contender.
|Fabricio Werdum showed off his improved striking by knocking out Mike Russow.|
Veteran heavyweight Fabricio Werdum has suffered defeat inside the Octagon, but he gave Mike Russow a sample of what it feels like to be outclassed in the UFC.
Werdum attacked Russow from the start and eventually landed a right uppercut. The punch sent Russow to the ground, where Werdum landed several more punches that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the assault at 2:28 of the first round.
It was the first loss for Russow as a UFC competitor.
Werdum was so excited afterward the TKO win that he turned his attention to heavyweight titleholder Junior dos Santos.
"I'm training a lot of Muay Thai," said Werdum, who improved to 16-5-1. "I live in Los Angeles, but to be here in Brazil makes me very happy.
"I know (dos Santos) is the champion, but I'm ready for him."
Russow falls to 15-2, with one no contest.
By starting his Zuffa-promoted career 3-0 and in impressive fashion, there were whispers of Yuri Alcantara in title contention.
Hacran Dias silenced that quiet conversation with a unanimous decision over Alcantara.
The judges scored the fight 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. ESPN.com had it 30-27 for Dias, who was fighting for the first time inside the Octagon.
From the opening round, Dias (21-1-1) controlled Alcantara by taking him to the ground where his superior strength was evident.
Alcantara (27-4) landed several hard punches in the third round but it had no impact on Dias, who is a teammate of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo.