(Conflicting reports on how big Rich really is. I think they’re both exaggerating.)
Zak Woods at WKR seems to think so:
Rich Franklin and Vitor Belfort will meet in the main event of UFC 103 this Saturady night. While the fight is at a catch-weight of 195lbs. this fight could have major implications for the light heavyweight division. …Unless Lyoto Machida loses to Mauricio Rua then the UFC will have extremely limited options and all signs point to Franklin and that’s not a bad thing.
I generally agree with everything Zak says. The top fighters at Light-Heavyweight have their own things going on right now; a good portion of them are tied up with fights too far after the title match to be ready in time for January/February, and about a third lost their last fight by devastating KO. What option makes the most sense? The main-event band aid Rich Franklin.
The fact of the matter is that Franklin is on a hot streak if he wins tonight. He’ll have main evented three pay per views within nine months, making his name the biggest it’s been in his whole career. Wins over Hamill, Wand, Vitor and a BS decision loss to Henderson would be pretty good ground-work for a run at the championship. (Wanderlei and Vitor are known for being Light-Heavyweights for the championships and success they had in the division, so beating them still means something whether it’s at 195 or not.)
Rich has a built-in storyline for a Machida rematch should circumstance require it, while Shogun wouldn’t be a tough sell since Franklin’s past few fights have fallen into the “I didn’t ask for it, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it” category, anyway.