UFC 147 preview: Silva vs. Franklin

The UFC’s long awaited return to Brazil has been marred by injuries and cancellations, but UFC 147 still features heavy star power. Wanderlei Silva, one of the all-time mixed martial arts greats, returns home for a rematch against former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin, while elite Brazilian heavyweight Fabricio Werdum looks to move one step closer to a shot at the gold when he meets American wrestler Mike Russow, who is unbeaten in four UFC outings.

UFC 147 will also feature the finals of the Brazilian edition of "The Ultimate Fighter" as some exciting prospects will get mainstream exposure for the very first time, plus a pair of explosive Brazilian featherweights seek a triumphant homecoming.

Here’s a closer look:

Wanderlei Silva (34-11) vs. Rich Franklin (28-6)

After three competitive rounds at UFC 99, the beloved Brazilian warrior Silva and longtime UFC poster boy Franklin look to continue where they left off in a compelling five-round 190-pound showdown.

Silva, 35, was getting set for a rematch against Vitor Belfort before his compatriot withdrew from the bout with a broken hand. The new opponent could actually be a blessing for Silva, as it’s definitely a fight that now favors him more. After all, Belfort crushed Franklin when they fought in 2009.

The Pride middleweight champion from 2001-07, Silva is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt widely acknowledged as one of the most dangerous and exciting fighters of all time.

The Chute Boxe Academy product reunited with former coach Rafael Cordeiro before his most recent bout at UFC 139, which proved beneficial as Silva trounced Cung Le via second-round TKO. It was a must-win fight for Silva, who had previously dropped six of his last eight bouts.

In his prime, however, Silva was one of the most feared fighters in the sport, especially during a path of destruction that included defeats of Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Ricardo Arona and Kazuyuki Fujita.

Silva, who now resides in Las Vegas and spends a portion of his camp at Reign Training Center, insists he still has some fight left in him. Stylistically, Silva couldn’t ask for a better opponent to show it off.

In their initial June 2009 encounter, Franklin utilized a technical offensive approach to earn a razor-thin decision in Germany, but many observers thought Silva’s aggression and power punches could have won him the fight.

Franklin, 37, was one of the UFC’s biggest stars until he lost his UFC middleweight title to Anderson Silva at UFC 64 in October 2006. Franklin has remained a relevant contender who continually fights some of the best opposition in the world, but his name is no longer the focus of the division.

Over the past several years, Franklin has split time competing at 185 and 205 pounds, defeating Matt Hamill and Chuck Liddell, while dropping fights to Dan Henderson, Forrest Griffin and Belfort.

Franklin’s lack of size at light heavyweight was detrimental in his most recent loss against Griffin this past February, so a long-term drop back to the middleweight class could be a step in the right direction.

A seasoned southpaw and Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Jorge Gurgel, the Ohio-born Franklin is as well-rounded as they come, but his kickboxing has remained the focus of his offense.

This is a typical matching of aggression and power against technique and finesse. However, Franklin’s power should not be overlooked, evidenced by his career-ending knockout of Chuck Liddell at UFC 115.

Many factors in this fight tend to lean in Franklin’s favor, but Silva knows his back is against the wall and he’s adamant about deciding his own fate in the sport he helped catapult into the mainstream. If Silva can feed off the frenzied Brazilian fans, he should rekindle some of what made him one of the biggest stars in the Pride Fighting Championships, finding the perfect opportunity to pounce on Franklin with a storm of violent punches and knees, putting him away in emphatic fashion.

Verdict: Silva via KO, Round 1