Sixteen months after he last stepped into a UFC octagon, Rich Franklin is back in the win column. But not without a scare. While Franklin exhibited no discernible ring rust, controlling the vast majority of the fight with his clean striking, he had to avert a late second-round disaster after Wanderlei Silva floored him with a right hook and blitzed him looking for the finish in the final seconds.
Franklin managed to hold on and survive, and then cruised through the final rounds en route to the UFC 147 victory in the sequel to their 2009 fight. All three judges scored the bout in his favor 49-46.
Afterward, Franklin admitted that he didn't remember most of the action after getting knocked down, letting his training take him through to the finish.
"When that kinds of stuff happens, you remember bits and pieces," he said. "My coach told me not to get greedy, to pick my punches. I thought I did a good job of that. I was operating on autopilot."
Franklin also won the first fight between the two back at UFC 99, though that was by split-decision.
Franklin did a good job pumping out his jab repeatedly and staying out of multi-strike exchanges, leaving Silva waiting for a counter that was rarely there.
Things changed wildly in the second, when Silva used one of his PRIDE-era blitzkrieg attacks to drop him. He swarmed with an endless series of strikes, and referee Mario Yamasaki carefully watched the action, which could have been stopped on more than one occasion. Franklin kept moving though, and Yamasaki let things continue. The round seemed like it could have been enough for a 10-8, though all the judges scored it 10-9 for Silva.
As it turns out, that didn't matter. Silva expended a great deal of energy in looking for the finish, as he didn't come out for the third with the same bounce he'd had just moments prior. Franklin, meanwhile, recovered brilliantly between rounds, re-establishing his control of range and timing with jabs and straight lefts. He also scored a takedown in the round's final minute to ensure he'd sway the judges.
Silva didn't look any better in the fourth, and could only manage one final swarm in the fifth that wasn't enough to either finish the fight or convince the judges he'd done enough. He later admitted he'd gassed himself out hoping for a highlight-reel finish before his fellow Brazilians.
"I think I pushed it a bit too much, but I really wanted to knock him out," he said.
Franklin is now 29-6 with 1 no contest, with the win marking his first victory since he knocked Chuck Liddell out and into retirement in June 2010. Silva is 34-12-1 with 1 no contest. He's now lost four of his last six.