Tonight’s main event of Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson is sure to be an epic battle between two of the sport’s biggest names. Much has been said of what a victory would mean for either man, but few have commented on what happens next for the loser of the bout. To put it in the classiest way possible, the loser is completely fucked.
Whether or not ‘Ace’ is all that pumped about a TUF coaching position, the reality is that a victory secures a spot on the show which means a massive exposure increase and a guaranteed main event bout against Michael Bisping, which will no doubt be for a title shot. On the other hand, a loss puts either fighter at a career crossroads. Neither man is getting younger and both have had their shot at the big dance many times before.
If Franklin suffers a loss, he will be known as a quality fighter who simply couldn’t hang with the elite of the sport. While he has recorded some quality victories over the likes of Evan Tanner, David Loiseau, and Nate Quarry, none of those men were world beaters by any stretch of the imagination. Franklin’s biggest victory would be a close decision over top ten ranked Yushin Okami, which was one of the lowest selling shows of the modern UFC. A loss to Hendo — in addition to previous stoppage losses against Anderson Silva (twice) and Lyoto Machida — would mean that every time Franklin stepped into the cage against a truly elite fighter he came up on the short end of the stick. He would have to weigh retirement against fighting mid-tier opponents in matches with a lot to lose and little to gain.
Henderson, on the other hand, is fighting for relevancy. While losses to Anderson Silva and Rampage Jackson are nothing to lose sleep over, a third loss in four fights would mean that Hendo’s days as a top fighter are well behind him. After all, this is a man who has beaten the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Babalu Sobral, Kazuo Misaki, Renzo Gracie, Minotauro Nogueira, and Vitor Belfort over the course of a storied career. A loss to Franklin would result in a 1-3 record in his current UFC run and that, coupled with his commanding salary, could result in Hendo receiving his walking papers from Dana & Lorenzo.
To say this fight is a must win situation for both men is a huge understatement. The winner will become an even bigger star for the foreseeable future while the loser will fall into obscurity. The worst part about it is that this isn’t a fight like War Machine vs. Tito Ortiz where you’re praying that both guys lose because you hate them so much; Franklin and Hendo are both class acts. Let’s hope that the loser at the least goes down in a blaze of glory.