Elsewhere on the bill for XVT 5, John Gunderson will see his first action since being released by the UFC in September when he meets Costa Rican lightweight Alejandro Solano Rodriguez. Once-touted prospect and BJJ black belt Alberto Crane will return to MMA against Ludwing Salazar, while Bendy Casimir will drop to 135 pounds to face Julio Brenes.
Set to take place at the San Luis Gonzaga Gymnasium in Cartago, Costa Rica, the lightweight main event is not only a clash in styles, but one which finds the two lightweights headed down distinctly opposite career paths.
A highly-decorated judoka and 2000 Olympian in the sport for France, Kheder (Pictured) has compiled an 18-5 record since transitioning to mixed martial arts in 2006. The 35-year-old has tasted defeat only once in his last 14 bouts, dropping a unanimous decision to Japanese veteran Daisuke Nakamura in an August 2009 M-1 Global contest for which Kheder failed to make weight. Since then, the “Hurricane” has reeled off five straight stoppage wins, mostly within Costa Rican promotions.
In January, Bellator Fighting Championships announced that Kheder had signed on for its second-season lightweight tournament, but appendicitis forced the French Tunisian out of his opening round bout against Toby Imada in April. Speaking with Sherdog.com last month, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney expressed hope that Kheder would be part of the 155-pound bracket in the promotion’s upcoming fourth season.
Franca, meanwhile, has fallen on the toughest stretch of his nine-year MMA career. The former WEC lightweight champion and one-time UFC title contender has dropped three straight since being dismissed from the Zuffa ranks, and has won just a single bout in his last seven outings. After being knocked out by Iowa’s Eric Wisely in January, Franca announced his retirement, only to return eight months later and lose again to Wisely via decision. The colorful Brazilian’s downward trend continued earlier this month when he was upset by the unknown Moshe Kaitz at Israel Fighting Championship’s “Genesis.”