The Ultimate Fighting Championship has officially announced a return to Ireland on Jan 17, but this time they will be traveling to Dublin for the first time. Former middleweight champion, Rich "Ace" Franklin stays put at 205 pounds to face Dan Henderson in a tough light heavyweight showdown as the main event.
Also on the card will be former top light heavyweight stand-out, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua moving up to heavyweight for the night to get a rematch with Mark "The Hammer" Coleman, who defeated Rua while the two were in Pride a few years ago.
The fight between Franklin and Henderson is the culmination of a tremendous body of work for both competitors as they finally get the chance to square off in the Octagon.
"Rich Franklin vs. Dan Henderson is a battle between two great former champions who are both looking to get another chance to wear a world title around their waist," said Dana White in a press release on Wednesday. "Franklin is the former UFC Middleweight champion, and he's a dangerous striker with solid submission skills -- he also showed great takedown defense in his September destruction of powerful wrestler Matt Hamill."
"Dan Henderson is the former Pride welterweight and middleweight champion. He's a world class wrestler, known for his great chin and his one punch knockout power. He defeated formidable Brazilian submission specialist Rousimar Palhares in September. These are two fan favorites with a lot of pride on the line as they want to show that they are still among the very best fighters in the world."
Because the bout between Franklin and Henderson takes place at 205 pounds, this could officially eliminate Henderson from the recent rumors that he may coach alongside Michael Bisping, who seems like a logical choice for the United Kingdom squad, in the latest installment of the The Ultimate Fighter reality series.
The UFC has made no official announcement regarding any coaching possibilities for the show so anything could still happen.
The Jan. 17 event will re-introduce fans to Rua, who had one of the most hyped arrivals ever in the UFC, but did not live up to expectations when he lost to now light heavyweight champion, Forrest Griffin, in Sept 2007.
Rua has since disappeared off the radar due to several knee surgeries that have kept the former Pride champion sidelined for more than a year.
The rematch between Shogun and Coleman should be interesting to say the least as the two fighters have a history that at one time included a feud between to the camps of the two former champions. Coleman defeated Shogun while in Pride after a takedown from the former Ohio State wrestler caused an awkward landing for Rua and his arm broke thus stopping the fight.
Soon after it was almost bedlam as members of Rua's former team, Chute Boxe, rushed the ring as Coleman celebrated with his Hammer House squad. The grudge between to the two fighters will finally be settled in Ireland in January.
More fights are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.