Belfort-Franklin at UFC 103 to impact 2 divisions
Fans and media are still pondering the scheduled UFC 103 main event between former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin and Affliction export Vitor Belfort that will take place at a catch-weight of 195 pounds.
The very fact that it is at a catch-weight makes some scratch their heads because it is hard to gauge the ramifications of the matchup.
Let's attempt to clear the air a bit.
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Indirectly it will have a huge impact on not one, but two weight classes — the 185-pound middleweight division and the 205-pound light heavyweight division.
The Franklin-Belfort fight was originally slated to be Franklin-Dan Henderson II, however, it was pulled due in part to some backlash from those who had seen Henderson win a split decision over Franklin at UFC 93 earlier this year.
Why should Henderson have to beat Franklin again and risk a loss when he is in his late 30s and on the verge of another title shot? He shouldn't have to fight Franklin again and now he won't have to thanks to the UFC.
Enter former UFC light heavyweight champion and current middleweight contender Vitor Belfort who was pulled from the Affliction rubble and promptly signed, sealed and delivered back to the UFC.
He was instantly tabbed to fill in opposite Franklin in the main event at UFC 103.
Depending on Saturday's outcome in Dallas, these two men could go in very different directions and create a ripple effect.
Let's start with Franklin.
If he wins he will next take on a legitimate contender at the light heavyweight limit where he intends to finish out his UFC career.
Thiago Silva comes to mind as a possible opponent.
If Franklin is willing to wait awhile other options could open up: possibly the winner of a Randy Couture-Brandon Vera UFC 105 bout if it happens, Tito Ortiz if he is able to defeat Mark Coleman at UFC 106, or Jon Jones if he is able to defeat Matt Hamill at the TUF 10 Finale.
On the other hand, if Franklin loses the possibilities are also endless including Forrest Griffin, Keith Jardine or the Lyoto Machida/Mauricio Rua UFC 104 loser.
For Belfort a loss would mean he gets thrown back into the middleweight heap to take on a midtier opponent in a few months.
Conversely, a win would propel him forward as a legitimate title contender in the crowded middleweight division currently ruled by fellow Brazilian Anderson Silva.
Belfort would not get the next crack at Silva because he hasn't been around long enough and the UFC needs to build his brand up a bit more before he gets his chance.
Either Henderson or Nate Marquardt will likely receive the next title shot.
Other middleweights who could complicate the middleweight conundrum in the near future include Yushin Okami, if he is victorious at UFC 104 against Chael Sonnen and Yoshihiro Akiyama who won his much-anticipated UFC debut over Alan Belcher at UFC 100.
The UFC has many avenues to pursue going forward but let's take a gander into an octagon-shaped crystal ball for a minute.
Here's the forecast:
Expect Henderson to fight Silva next but the same outcome to occur as their first meeting back at UFC 82.
Expect Marquardt to also get a title shot against Silva but he'll have to wait until 2010.
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