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UFC 126 Fight Breakdown: Forrest Griffin vs. Rich Franklin

LAS VEGAS -- The careers of two distinguished fighters intersect at the perfect time at UFC 126. Both Rich Franklin and Forrest Griffin are returning after injury layoffs. Both are former champions, both are 3-2 in their last five fights, both are crowd favorites, and the list goes on.

Due to its physical nature, mixed martial arts is a sport with a short prime, and Franklin and Griffin are both intent on proving they have some "prime" left to their respective careers, even if it comes at the expense of the other. Which one has more left in the tank?

For all we know, Franklin might still be reigning over the middleweight division if Anderson Silva had never come to town. But after two losses to Silva, Franklin has been in a veritable no man's land, taking fights in the light-heavyweight division as well as catch weight fights. With championship thoughts still dancing in his head, Franklin can certainly make a strong statement regarding his place in the 205-pound weight class by beating the division's former champ.

Though they have similar reputations as hard-nosed fighters, their respective games are quite different. Aside from the obvious fact that Franklin is a southpaw and Griffin is right-handed, they both approach their offense in different manners.

While Griffin (17-6) prefers a high-volume attack built on feints and constant movement, Franklin (28-5, 1 no contest) is more of a power striker who uses setup combinations to look for the knockout blow.

Both men have significantly balanced games. For example, Franklin has 15 wins via KO or TKO and 10 submissions. Griffin doesn't have the power to generate significant knockout stats, but his standup is solid and technical, and his submission game is good enough that he's tapped black belt Mauricio "Shogun" Rua while he himself has never been submitted in his career.

What both men do that doesn't show up in statistics is limit mistakes. Griffin might have entered the UFC with the reputation as a wild man, but he no longer swings wildly in hopes of landing a fight-ender. Instead, he moves with purpose and tries to make his activity count. It's not always so much about what he lands, but about making sure he gives his opponent pause to move forward.

That will contrast nicely with Franklin (28-5,1 no contest), who likes to take the center of the cage and take control of the fight's rhythm with his footwork. The back-and-forth dance between the two and who is dictating the tone and tempo of the fight will be a good clue on who will win. If Griffin's constant movement has Franklin on his heels, his volume striking might add up to victory. But if Franklin decides he's not threatened by Griffin's power and plows forward with his power, he has the ability to hurt Griffin.

During fight week, Griffin has said that his best chance of victory in the fight would be to find a way to get Franklin to the mat, where he can use his huge size advantage to wear down his opponent. At Friday's official weigh-ins, Griffin weighed in at 206 pounds, three pounds heavier than Franklin. But on fight night, Griffin will likely be around 220 while Franklin will still be in the low 200s.

Getting him to the ground won't be so easy though. Griffin has never excelled at takedowns. According to Compustrike, he's tried only nine in his 12 UFC fights. Though he's been successful on six (67 percent), that's not a huge sample size in which to gauge his possible success. And Franklin is not easy to take down, either. Opponents have taken him down on only 11 of 25 attempts, according to Compustrike.

The fight could end up on the ground at some point, but Franklin has strong jiujitsu, and he's very good at getting back to his feet. Even in his UFC 115 win over Liddell, he was on his back and quickly got back up despite having suffered a broken arm earlier in the round. Griffin is very good at keeping position and grinding an opponent from the top, so that part of the game will be no gimme for either.

According to Compustrike, Franklin and Griffin were on their feet for 76 percent of their 29 combined fights, so it seems that standing offense will decide this one. It's Griffin's volume vs. Franklin's power, and how the judges perceive it.

This will be a close fight that goes to the judges' scorecards. Franklin's southpaw stance might give him the standup edge he needs to land enough power strikes and sway the judges into his favor. Rich Franklin via decision.

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