That's what is on the line tonight (Nov. 19, 2011) when former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) champions, Urijah Faber and Brian Bowles, battle for the division's number one contender position at UFC 139: "Shogun. vs. Henderson" from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
Both 135-pound fighters have sipped from the championship chalas, only to have UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz deny them from indefinitely quenching their title thirst. Faber dropped an action-packed, five round unanimous decision to "The Dominator" at UFC 132 earlier this year, while Bowles was forced to bow out of his bout with Cruz at WEC 47 -- and in the process forfeit his crown -- in 2010 because of a broken hand.
Whoever wins later this evening will get one step closer to earning another opportunity to conquer Cruz, but it won't be a walk in the park ... not even close.
Faber and Bowles are both ranked among the top-five bantamweight fighters in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, according to the SB Nation/USA Today Consensus Rankings.
"The California Kid" failed in his bid to topple Cruz, which he did as a featherweight via submission (guillotine choke) way back in 2007, after putting together back-to-back wins to begin his bantamweight campaign. Faber, a former WEC featherweight champion, made the 10-pound dip down in competition after losses to Mike Brown (twice) and Jose Aldo.
Since losing his 145-pound belt to Brown in 2009, Faber has been winless (0-3) in world title fights. He does have four wins during that span; however, if Faber intends to resume his postion atop the divisional perch, he's going to have to demonstrate that at 32 years old, he is still capable of winning the fights that matter most.
And tonight's battle with Bowles is a step toward proving that his best days are still yet to come.
Bowles, meanwhile, has quietly marched back into contention with consecutive wins over Damacio Page and Takeya Mizugaki. The hard-hitting Athens, Ga., native has just one blemish on an otherwise perfect record (10-1), earning a reputation throughout his professional career as an effective fight finisher.
In fact, only one man, the aforementioned Mizugaki, has taken Bowles the distance.
With such definitive success, one would imagine that Bowles would mentioned more frequently in contender discussions. His humble personality and unassuming Kenny Florian-like appearance are more than likely contributing factors to the lack of Bowles buzz.
But, he can change that perception tonight in one fell swoop with convincing win over the popular Faber in a high-profile pay-per-view (PPV) scrap. In doing so, Bowles wouldn't just earn his second chance to fight Cruz, he'd forcibly claim it.
The same goes for Faber, too.