The former middleweight champion survived a second-round knockdown and rallied to outpoint Brazilian legend Wanderlei Silva in hostile territory at Saturday's UFC 147 event.
The 190-pound catchweight fight headlined UFC 147's pay-per-view lineup and took place at a sold-out Estadio Jornalista Felipe Drumond in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte.
Franklin, who took the fight on four weeks' notice for injured Vitor Belfort, silenced a very pro-Silva crowd with a five-round unanimous-decision victory (49-46 on all scorecards). Franklin also outpointed "The Axe Murderer" three years ago at UFC 99.
The 37-year-old Franklin and 35-year-old Silva entered UFC 147 a combined 5-9 in their previous 14 fights. It's hardly the success that warrants headlining spots, but the fan favorites have been proven draws. So with few other options available, officials booked the rematch and hoped to capitalize on Silva's fame in his home country.
Franklin, though, proved quicker to the punch throughout the fight, and despite a 16-month layoff due to shoulder-surgery recovery, his conditioning and durability were superb. Both helped him survive Silva's second-round knockdown and subsequent ground-and-pound assault that had "Ace" in survival mode until he was saved by the bell.
The series, in fact, admittedly sapped Silva (34-12-1 MMA, 4-7 UFC) of energy, and Franklin (29-6 MMA, 14-5 UFC) capitalized in the later rounds to set up the decision win.
"I honestly don't remember it," Franklin said of the second-round right hook that floored him. "When that kind of stuff happens, you remember bits and pieces. ... I was operating on auto-pilot for a while."
Franklin, who had been toiling in the light-heavyweight division after losing his middleweight belt to dominant champ Anderson Silva, said he's planning a return to his former weight class for one final title run before retirement.
-- Ferreira, Bezerra win 'TUF: Brazil'
In the night's other featured bouts, two tournament winners were crowned as part of the conclusion of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil."
The first international edition of the UFC's long-running reality series drew big ratings in Brazil, so it was fitting the tourney conclusions were booked for the UFC's Brazilian event.
In the middleweight-tournament final, Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira (5-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) topped Sergio "Serginho" Moraes (6-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) via unanimous decision. In the featherweight final, Rony "Jason" Mariano Bezerra (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) did the same to Godofredo "Pepey" de Oliveira (8-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC).
Both winners receive long-term UFC contracts and will feature prominently on future cards.
-- Full UFC 147 results:
Rich Franklin def. Wanderlei Silva via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira def. Sergio "Serginho" Moraes via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) - to win "TUF: Brazil" middleweight tourney
Rony "Jason" Mariano Bezerra def. Godofredo "Pepey" de Oliveira via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) - to win "TUF: Brazil" featherweight tourney
Fabricio Werdum def. Mike Russow via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 2:28
Hacran Dias def. Yuri Alcantara via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Rodrigo Damm def. Anistavio "Gasparzinho" Medeiros via submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 2:12
Francisco "Massaranduba" Drinaldo def. Delson "Pe de Chumbo" Heleno via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 4:21
Hugo "Wolverine" Viana def. John "Macapa" Teixeira via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Thiago "Bodao" Perpetuo def. Leonarda "Macarrao" Mafra via TKO (punches) - Round 3, 0:41
Marcos "Vina" Vinicius def. Wagner "Galeto" Campos via TKO (strikes) - Round 3, 1:04
Felipe Arantes and Milton Vieira fight to a split draw (29-28, 28-29, 28-28)
Contributing: John Morgan