The UFC is taking a cue from many of the entertainers who flock to its Las Vegas hometown and taking up residency at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida in order to deliver three events in eight nights that will mean a return to normalcy in terms of athletes getting the chance to compete in the Octagon and fans getting to take in the action. In honor of this extended stay in Duval county, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable fights and moments that have transpired in previous UFC trips to “The Sunshine State.” UFC 42 - Rich Franklin vs. Evan Tanner
The fight didn’t even last three full minutes, but it’s significant nonetheless as this light heavyweight contest marked Franklin’s promotional debut, kicking off a run where “Ace” would go on to become a cornerstone for the UFC later in his career.
Franklin was undefeated at the time — 11-0 with one no contest verdict — and had picked up some solid victories fighting primarily in the Midwest. Tanner was an established standout who had previously challenged for the light heavyweight title and entered the bout on a four-fight winning streak. He was, undeniably, the toughest test of Franklin’s career to that point.
With Franklin in his customary southpaw stance, the first two minutes saw each man trying to dictate the terms of engagement — Franklin happy to operate in space and snipe with strikes from range, while Tanner frequently pressed forward, hoping to close the distance and initiate the clinch. But seconds later, Franklin found a home for a left that clearly stung Tanner and began pressing forward, connecting with power shots that eventually put Tanner on the canvas and brought the fight to a halt.
This was the first of 20 appearances Franklin would make inside the Octagon during the course of his career. He’d win the middleweight belt in a rematch with Tanner two years later and go on to be one of the most popular and prominent competitors in the UFC in the post-Ultimate Fighter era.