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Rich Franklin vs. Vitor Belfort at UFC 103

Despite a report from that UFC 103 in Dallas would feature a rematch between Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson, Dana White has just announced at today’s press conference that the main event will instead feature Franklin facing off with former light heavyweight champion and current top 10 middleweight Vitor Belfort in a 205 lb bout.

This is HUGE news. Belfort is one of the true pioneers of the sport. His tournament win at UFC 12, his brutal TKO over Tank, his devastating stoppage over Wanderlei, his battles with Tito and Randy, and his recent full-on assault of Matt Lindland are all the stuff of legend. The new generation of MMA fans that make up the majority of the pay-per-view audience have yet to be exposed to the Phenom. While Belfort has had an up-and-down career, as of late he’s shown glimpses of his former self. If the former Affliction fighter has truly returned to form, so to speak, it could be a rough night for Rich Franklin.

Realistically, though, this fight could go either way. Both men throw crisp, hard punches supported by solid footwork. Both have underrated ground games. Both have fought the best fighters in the world and had mixed results. A win for Franklin would put him one fight away from a light heavyweight title shot, whereas a loss will signify that Franklin is merely a talented fighter who can’t beat the top guys. As for Belfort, a win will make him a superstar to casual fans and set him up for a run at the middleweight title (unless he decides to stay at 205, which I think is unlikely) while a loss could put him in a legends re-match of sorts with somebody like Randy, Chuck, Wanderlei, or Tito.

No matter who leaves Dallas with the win, this fight is going to be fanfuckingtastic.

*UPDATE* Rich Franklin notes in his twitter that this fight will be at 195 pounds as per Vitor Belfort’s request.’