BELFAST, Northern Ireland – Rich Franklin will get a chance to reclaim his UFC middleweight championship sometime later this year thanks to his victory Saturday over Yushin Okami.
Franklin won a unanimous decision in a dull fight to set up a bout against the winner of the July 7 title fight between Anderson Silva and challenger Nate Marquardt.
Franklin survived a kimura and a good choke in the third round. He said kimura wasn’t cinched tight, but conceded the choke had an impact and nearly forced him to submit.
“I probably sounded like I was gurgling mouthwash,” Franklin said.
Okami’s reputed strength advantage never materialized. Franklin had heard from Kalib Starnes and Mike Swick, Okami’s previous two opponents, about how strong Okami is, and said he was prepared for the possibility that Okami would be the stronger of the two.
He said he never noticed it, however.
“He didn’t seem as strong as Kalib and Swick had said,” Franklin said. “I didn’t feel overwhelmed.”
Forrest Griffin, fighting for the first time since he lost on a first-round knockout to Keith Jardine on Dec. 30, apologized to fans and media he was curt to before the fight.
The emotional Griffin, one of the UFC’s most popular fighters, said he was dealing with baggage from the loss as well as trying to recover from a staph infection and several injuries. “I’m sorry to all the people I was rude to,” said Griffin, who won a unanimous decision over Hector Ramirez in a light heavyweight bout. “I was under a lot of pressure.”
Griffin, normally one of the sport’s most gregarious and witty athletes, was gruff in most of his pre-fight interviews and wasn’t as accommodating to fans who approached him. He said part of it was trying to deal with all the attention he’s receiving.
“To be honest with you, with a little bit of notoriety and a little bit of whatever, there’s just a little additional pressure,” Griffin said. “Pressure to win, pressure to perform, just a lot of pressure. I felt like I kind of … I quit being me. I got a little frustrated and was kind of rude to some people.”
DAVIS: NO SUBMISSION
Welterweight Marcus Davis showed his background as a former professional boxer when he knocked out Jason Tan in the first round of their welterweight bout.
Davis now has nine wins in a row, but the knockout was his first in his last five fights.
“I told myself when I got here that even if I had him in a submission, I wasn’t going to take it,” Davis said. “No matter what, I was going to get back on my feet and I was going to knock him out. No matter what, I was going to knock him out.”
The first major showdown between Pride and UFC champions will happen on Sept. 8 in London when UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson meets Pride champion Dan Henderson.
Jackson has been on an extended victory tour since knocking out Chuck Liddell to win the title last month, but his trainer, Juanito Ibarra, guaranteed he’ll be ready for Henderson.
“That belt is going in a drawer, we’re going back to Big Bear, (Calif., for training camp) and we’ll shut out the world again to get ready,” Ibarra said. “Rampage knows how to handle the celebrity because he was a big celebrity in Japan. He can deal with it.
“The hardest thing to do as a champion is to stay on top of the mountain. To do that, you have to stay humble. If Rampage wanted to be a celebrity, we might have a problem, but by no means is that the case. He is a fighter who loves to fight, especially big fights. He’ll definitely be dialed for Dan.”
ROBINSON COULDN’T GO
Belfast’s Colin Robinson received a hero’s welcome from the hometown crowd before his fight with Eddie Sanchez. And the 238-pound heavyweight had them at a fever pitch when he had Sanchez down and was pounding him in the first round.
But Sanchez survived, then hit Robinson with a big shot at the start of the second round and wound up being stopped at 32 seconds of the second.
“I had a wee bit of an adrenaline dump,” said Robinson, who said he spent so much of his energy trying to finish Sanchez that he had nothing left.
TITO SAID NO
UFC president Dana White said he had tried to match Griffin with former light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, but said Ortiz declined.
“Tito didn’t want to come over here, the big sissy,” White said.
Griffin, who lost a controversial split decision to Ortiz last year, said he would welcome a rematch with Ortiz.
“Most definitely, it’s a fight I wouldn’t say no to,” Griffin said.