A new face for UFC prime time

Franklin vs. Henderson, a fight the fans asked for. Its funny though, I dont remember requesting an opportunity to see Franklin get his face smashed in again. Yet, at the end of the night I was surprised, and pleased, to say that it was the best fight of the night for Ultimate Fighting Championship 93 in Dublin, Ireland.

Dan Henderson landing a punch on Rich Franklin at UFC 93
Dan Henderson landing a punch on Rich Franklin at UFC 93

This was not the only fight the Irish gathered to see. The co-main event marked the return of light heavyweight UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman against the resilient Brazilian Shogun Rua. Before the main events, Irelands own Marcus Davis faced off against Chris Lights out Lytle in a brutal encounter which left both fighters bruised and swollen.

Franklin and Henderson lasted the full three rounds with equal matching — both men traded blows and took turns pinning each other against the mat. At the end of the first round, Franklin suffered two forehead gashes that were professionally controlled by his corner men. Henderson tried to capitalize on Franklins cuts in the second five-minute round by tackling Franklin down for a ground-and-pound fiesta. Franklin however, did his best to maneuver out of Hendersons iron claws.

The fight nearly ended during the last thirty seconds of the third round when Henderson landed a vicious eye-poke on Ace Franklin, leaving the latter with a swollen right eye and no break to recover visibility.

The final decision, which came by surprise to some fans, went to Henderson and left an already heated Franklin visibly upset. The two fighters were not only duking it out over the event purse but also the chance to coach in the upcoming ninth season of the UFC reality show against middleweight contender Michael Bisping. It was a step closer to a championship bout.

Franklin coached the second season of the popular show and has gone on to make many guest appearances training various rising stars. The ex-high school science teacher is very camera friendly (even after Silva gave him a new nose) so I expect to have not seen the last of Ace on UFC President Dana Whites reality empire.

Earlier on, Coleman and Shogun prepped the audience for the main event with a sluggish, and amusing fury of fists. Coleman made his name in the sport from 1996 to 1999, back when UFC was a single-digit pay-per-view. This was Colemans comeback fight, and a tough one against Shogun Rua, who desires to make his mark in the UFC.

Exploding out of their corners, both men exchanged blows with Coleman getting the first takedown by sweeping the leg of Shogun. The end of the first round saw Coleman visibly fatigued, and at the bell he wandered around aimlessly looking for his corner.

At the end of the second round Shogun looked for a little break in momentum, glancing at the clock while holding his opponent in a submission attempt to bide some time. It did not look pretty as the two worn out fighters stood in the third round with arms at their sides trying to muster up enough strength to make the final impression.

Shogun escaped Colemans attempt for a ground attack and kneed him while he was down on his knees, drawing a warning from referee Kevin Mulhall — a competitive and careless mistake. With a minute to spare, Shogun delivered a flurry of punches catching Coleman with a couple of hooks, and ending it with a devastating upper cut. The event ended with a TKO for Shogun.

The matchup between Welterweights Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle was the card opener of the night, and they delivered a stand-up battle for 15 minutes before Davis emerged victorious via a three round split decision. Both men left with swollen left eyes, but it was Lytles red ribs that turned the judges to look at the impressive kicks that Davis landed. It was a dynamic, close fight that could have easily gone either way, but the home crowds of Ireland were hyped to see their own prevail and cheered Davis on for the win.

During a post-fight press conference, White announced another Montreal date in April, pitting the Iceman Liddell against the victorious Shogun Rua. Its a second chance for Liddell and an extra step on the ladder for Shogun.

The league has also created a programme on Spike TV, following the big guns of UFC 94, George St.Pierre and B.J. Penn, as they prepare to fight to the death. The rubber match that we have been waiting for is upon us, seeing the stone cold champion from the frigid streets of Montreal and a hot-blooded challenger from the black sands of Hilo Bay back in the octagon.