This manuscript demonstrates the synthesis of selective Lewis-acid sites in a metal-organic framework (MOF) for glucose transformation to 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF). These sites are synthesized via partial phosphate modification of zirconia-cluster nodes in MOF NU-1000, which titrates strong Lewis-acid sites that would lead to undesired side reactions. Our mechanistic study using isotope tracer analysis and kinetic isotope effect measurements reveals that an isomerization-dehydration mechanism mainly occurs on the MOF catalyst, where fructose is an intermediate. This mechanism suggests that dilute concentrations are favorable in order to suppress undesired intermolecular condensation of glucose/fructose/HMF and maximize HMF yield. We demonstrate both high yield and selectivity of HMF formation of 64% with the MOF catalyst, at an initial glucose concentration of 1 mM in water/2-propanol. In stark contrast, similar partial phosphate modification of a bulk zirconia yields a catalyst that exhibits poor HMF selectivity, while possessing nearly identical Brønsted acidity to the selective NU-1000-based catalyst.