— In the not-too-distant past, Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson ruled parallel weigh classes in fights staged half a world apart. It took the crumbling of a company to get the two MMA stars together in the same cage at the same time, but at least it finally happened.
Though the two once ruled the 183-185 pound weight class (PRIDE capped their class at 83 kilos, or 183 pounds; UFC at 185), they fought on Saturday as light-heavyweights. With the weight cut not a factor, Henderson earned a close split-decision victory in the UFC 93 main event in Dublin, Ireland.
The two fought a relatively close fight, but the judges were likely ultimately swayed by Henderson’s takedowns and ground game in the first two rounds. In both frames, Henderson was able to put Franklin on his back and land scoring shots, though both times Franklin was able to rise from the canvas and recover.
In the third, with Henderson tiring, Franklin began to assert himself scoring from the outside and trying a takedown of his own. With less than a minute remaining, Henderson accidentally poked Franklin in the eye, causing a timeout that gave him precious recovery time. With less than 40 seconds remaining on the restart, Henderson was able to ride out the round.
Two judges scored the fight 29-28 for Henderson while once scored it 30-27 for Franklin.
“I felt that this was a good fight style-wise for me,” said Henderson (24-7). “I felt that I could take him down. He did well from the outside, but I did well from the inside and on top.”
In the days leading up to the fight, UFC President Dana White announced that the winner would earn a spot as a coach opposite Michael Bisping on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Henderson will lead a team of American fighters against Bisping’s British team, which was already chosen in tryouts over the past week. After the season ends, Henderson and Bisping will fight, and the winner could possibly get a crack at the middleweight title currently held by Anderson Silva. Henderson previously faced Silva and suffered a second-round submission loss.
Franklin (24-4) will possibly stay at light-heavyweight and cherry-pick fights against high-caliber opponents.
While Henderson and Franklin received most of the attention leading into the night, the evening perhaps meant more to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Mark Coleman than any other fighters on the card.
Rua had been sidelined since Sept. 2007 after requiring major knee surgery while the 44-year-old Coleman had been out of action since the demise of PRIDE. The two had fought once before with Coleman winning via TKO after Rua dislocated his elbow defending a takedown try.
Rua was also coming off an upset loss to Forrest Griffin in his UFC and was hoping to reestablish himself as one of the top 205-pounders in the world. Unfortunately, he didn’t come off looking as impressive as he had hoped. Rua earned a TKO but had trouble finishing the clearly exhausted Coleman until late in the third round. Rua’s standup looked relaxed and he scored at will at times, but Coleman was not a hard target to hit. Finally, with time winding down, the fighters exchanged punches and Shogun connected the harder shots, putting Coleman down, then following up with shots against his grounded foe until the fight was stopped.
“I was on the sidelines for one year, and that wasn’t easy,” Rua said through an interpreter. “That took away a lot of my conditioning, and I’ve had to get back into a rhythm. By my next fight I’ll be more prepared, and in better shape to give my fans a show.”
Rua will have another chance to impress when he takes on Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 97. UFC President Dana White announced the bout during the post-fight press conference.
In the upset of the evening, Alan Belcher scored a second-round guillotine choke submission win over the debuting Denis Kang.
Kang had been controlling most of the action throughout most of the first two rounds until making a crucial mistake on a takedown try. He fell right into Belcher’s guillotine, and the 24-year-old jiu-jitsu purple belt squeezed the hold, forcing the black-belt to tap out. Kang, who has fought most of his career overseas, fell to 31-11-1, fighting in the U.S. for the first time since a 2005 Absolute Fighting Championships show.
The super-hyped Chris Lytle-Marcus Davis slugfest lived up to the promise of no takedowns, and Davis’ superior counterstriking and composure likely earned him a split-decision win by scores of 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.
Both fighters had their moments of landing heavy shots, and Davis floored Lytle twice with strikes, but always allowed his opponent to rise from the mat and re-engage much to the crowd’s delight.
Full UFC 93 results
Dennis Siver def. Nate Mohr via TKO (strikes) — Round 3
Thomasz Drwal def. Ivan Serati via TKO (punches) — Round 1
Eric Schafer def. Antonio Mendes via TKO (punches) — Round 1
Martin Kampmann def. Alexandre Barros via TKO (strikes) — Round 2
John Hathaway def. Tom Egan via TKO (strikes) — Round 1
Marcus Davis def. Chris Lytle via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Alan Belcher def. Denis Kang via submission (guillotine choke) — Round 2
Rousimar Palhares def. Jeremy Horn via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua def. Mark Coleman via TKO (strikes) — Round 3
Dan Henderson def. Rich Franklin via split decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson (29-7), fresh off a KO victory of Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, will square off against Keith Jardine (14-4-1) in the main event of UFC 96 in Columbus, Ohio.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua will face Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 97, to be held in Montreal.