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Franklin survives Wanderlei whirlwind to win in Brazil

ESPN staff
June 24, 2012 « Hodgson: England must have no regrets | Chartbeat test »
Rich Franklin displayed superior technique to Wanderlei Silva © Getty Images
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Wanderlei Silva came within a whisker of delivering a trademark Axe Murderer finish for his adoring Brazilian public in the UFC 147 main event, but he was ultimately undone by the superior condition and technique of Rich Franklin on Saturday night.

Wanderlei, one of the most popular mixed martial artists in the sport's history, was looking to deliver a reminder to his home fans that he still boasts a genuine threat to the top names in the UFC. And for a 90-second spell in round two he looked capable of doing just that as he exploded into a vicious ambush on Franklin, but the American survived and rode out a deserved unanimous 49-46 decision victory.

Having met once before, in a thrilling three-rounder won by Franklin in Germany, the opening round saw him re-establish a similar pattern to their first encounter, with Franklin in control and timing a series of combinations. Wanderlei was second to nearly every punch, but he responded late in the stanza with a thumping head kick.

The second was heading the same way until Wanderlei completely turned the tables, rocking and then dropping Franklin, both with big right hands. Franklin was forced to engage survival mode as Wanderlei moved in for the kill on the ground, landing a catalogue of strikes but failing to force the referee to step in.

The onslaught clearly took its toll on the aging Silva, who barely offered a threat in the third as Franklin landed body kicks and straight lefts before finding a late takedown that allowed him to unload elbows on the mat.

By now Wanderlei could only fight in spurts, in between which he absorbed jabs, straight lefts and more blows to the body. The pair threw down in the final minute, resulting in a late knockdown for Franklin, but it was a night that reminded fans of the class of the former champion, mixed with the odd flash of brilliance from the Axe Murderer.

In the heavyweight division, Fabricio Werdum took a giant step towards a title shot against previous conqueror Junior Dos Santos, by forcing a first-round stoppage of Mike Russow. In 17 previous bouts Russow had only lost once and never been KO'd or TKO'd, but Werdum achieved in 88 seconds what Todd Duffee failed to manage in a three-round onslaught.

There can be no doubting the seismic improvement that has taken place in Werdum's Muay Thai, and the Brazilian completely discarded his much-vaunted Jiu-Jitsu as he consistently loaded up on combinations. Always looking for the Thai knees, Werdum eventually dropped Russow with a huge uppercut, forcing the stoppage with a series of follow-up hammer fists.

The crown of "Ultimate Fighter" in the middleweight class went to Cezar Mutante, who turned in one of the more memorable Ultimate Fighter Finale performances with a unanimous 29-28 30-27 30-27 decision victory against Sergio Moraes. Mutante opened up with a spectacular capoeira kick to land the first strike of the fight, and he turned to it again in the second stanza for one of two knockdowns in the round.

Despite losing the round Moraes ended in the ascendancy after he rocked Mutante badly with a crunching elbow, but Mutante found two more knockdowns in the third to cement a truly eye-catching performance.

Meanwhile the featherweight division crown went to Rony Jason, who landed the more significant strikes in a frustrating unanimous decision against Pepy de Oliveira.

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