Photo: UFC - Vitor Belfort made a successful return to the UFC by knocking out Rich Franklin.
Photo: UFC - Vitor Belfort made a successful return to the UFC by knocking out Rich Franklin.

What has changed, if anything, for the participants in last night’s “UFC 103 Franklin vs. Belfort?” Who moves up in their perspective weight-class rankings? Who drops off the radar, and perhaps the UFC roster?

Let’s start with the under card:
Four of the eight fights ended in decision, starting with the first fight. The decision winners will undoubtedly remain employed, but delegated to other UFC under card fights; most notably, TUF alum Eliot Marshall, winning by controversial split decision, and Vladamir Matyushenko, who won via unanimous decision.

Neither fighter did anything impressive enough to spike their ranking nor their marketability to the fans.

The big story, no pun intended, of the under card has to be Rick Story, of Vancouver, Wash. Story not only choked his opponent into submission from inside the guard, but won two whopping $65,000 bonuses for his efforts.

Story showed true grit, and with his willingness to mix it up, and his ability to take a punch, definitely gained an instant spot on the fan’s radar.

Efrain Escudero, winner of the Ultimate Fighter reality show, impressed and surprised everyone with his first round KO of Cole Miller. Showing that he is not just a one-dimensional wrestler, as many tagged him, Escudero’s stock is definitely rising.

Main card:
Starting with the first fight, every fight on the PPV card ended early, feeding MMA fans’ lust for big-time KO’s.

Tyson Griffin did what many thought impossible, by stopping Hermes Franca for the first time ever, with a second round TKO. Griffin showed patience and pin-point accuracy in his victory, hurdling himself into the 155 lbs. title mix. Franca, on the other hand, most likely has dropped off of the radar altogether, if not the UFC roster itself.

Josh Koscheck’s knockout of Frank Trigg was quick and vicious. The KO victory puts “Kos” right back into the welterweight top ten discussion. The knockout has to be a tough loss for Trigg, who was for all intents and purposes, making a final run at UFC gold. Trigg’s stock may drop, delegating him to one more under card fight if the UFC chooses to keep him on the roster.

Hard-hitting Britt Paul Daley immediately catapulted himself into the 170 lbs. title mix by decimating Martin Kampmann in the first round. With the KO victory Daley has cemented himself as a contender in the UFC. For Kampmann, he will need a couple of quality wins to get himself back in the top ten rankings.

Junior dos Santos beat Cro Cop by verbal submission; not quite the KO victory that many expected. Dos Santos showed he is still a young fighter that can and should improve his game to keep rising in the heavyweight ranks.

Cro Cop looked a bit slow and out-classed. His age really began to show, with a slowing ability to land strikes. After giving up in the third round, and being forced to go to the hospital, it will be interesting to see if he comes back from this loss.

In the main event of the evening, Vitor Belfort lived up to the hype by utterly destroying Rich Franklin in their catch-weight bout. Vitor showed his speed and power in this win, and will automatically be thrown into the 185 lbs. title mix (if he can make weight).

Franklin, even with a huge loss by KO, remains where he was prior to the match, in limbo. His willingness to do whatever the UFC asks of him keeps him in the good graces of the brass. Look to see Franklin again on a pay-per-view main card, but probably not in the main event.

The bigger question could be at what weight will Franklin fight – middleweight, light heavyweight, or somewhere in between?

By:  Jeff Howard

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