Hidden Gem: Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida vs. Rich “Ace” Franklin

In the days before the title of “Former UFC Champion” found its way into Bruce Buffer’s introductions of Lyoto Machida and Rich Franklin, the two longtime UFC vets met in Japan at Antonio Inoki’s aptly named annual event, Inoki Bom Ba Ye 2003: Inoki Festival.


The event, hosted by Machida’s former manager and Japanese pro wrestling and MMA legend, Antonio Inoki, took place on New Year’s Eve, 2003 in Kobe, Japan and featured MMA notables such as Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Kazuyuki Fujita, Josh Barnett, Semmy Schilt, and Din Thomas.


In the night’s second scheduled matchup, which would take place at a catch weight of 214 lbs, the 24 year old Lyoto Machida faced off against Cincinnati, Ohio’s Rich Franklin. Franklin, at the time, was undefeated in fifteen fights (14-0, 1 NC) and had already made two appearances in the UFC in which he racked up first round TKO victories over Edwin Dewees and Evan Tanner.


At that point, the former UFC Middleweight Champion had never gone to decision and had finished all but two bouts in the first round.


For the undefeated Machida, however, it would be only his third professional MMA bout, the second of which ended in a TKO (cut) victory over TUF finalist Stephan Bonnar in Brazil.


“The Dragon” would go on to win his next thirteen fights and claim the coveted UFC Light Heavyweight title over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104 in 2009 before losing it in their rematch at UFC 113.


While often criticized for his tendency to fight at a distance and avoid grueling, risky brawls, Machida has scored stunning knockouts over some of MMA’s most feared competition including Rashad Evans, Randy Couture, Thiago Silva, and Ryan Bader.


Most recently, Machida racked up his second career head kick knockout (first was against Randy Couture at UFC 129) over friend and training partner, Mark Munoz at UFC Fight Night 30 this past Saturday in Manchester, England.


The impressive first round TKO win was enough to earn Machida the night’s Knockout of the Night win and was his first fight at 185 lbs. In a post fight interview UFC President Dana White was in rare form when he mused at the possibilities of a matchup between Machida and fellow Brazilian, Vitor Belfort. Belfort is scheduled to face Dan Henderson at light heavyweight in a rematch at UFC Fight Night 32 in Goiania, Goias, Brazil on November 9th.


Long time UFC vet and fan favorite Rich Franklin returned to the UFC in 2004 where he captured the UFC Middleweight title and defended it twice before losing it in brutal fashion to Anderson “The Spider” Silva. Franklin went on to lose a rematch against the Brazilian striker and has since racked up wins both at middleweight and light heavyweight over Yushin Okami, Wanderlie Silva (twice) and Chuck Liddell.


His last fight took place nearly a year ago and ended in a shocking upset TKO win by the hands of Cung Le. Although not officially retired, it is uncertain when and if he will return to the octagon.

Leon MacCormack is currently working in China and doubling as an MMA contributor. He graduated from the University of Texas in 2011 and has been traveling the world ever since, writing about and watching fights however possible.