It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
Mauricio Rua was coming off the most impressive grand prix performance in mixed martial arts (MMA) history and had just trounced Alistair Overeem at Pride Fighting Championships' (Pride FC) second venture into the United States when he signed to the UFC.
He was booked against Forrest Griffin, the popular winner from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF). No one mistook Griffin for a world beater -- 10 months prior he was pounded out and left weeping by Keith Jardine -- but he was well-known and tough so he seemed like the perfect lamb to "Shogun's" slaughter.
Now, less than a week away (August 27) from their rematch at UFC 134: "Silva vs. Okami," Griffin is determined to prove his victory in 2007 was no fluke while Rua is hoping to put the past where it belongs and looking towards a future that contains another crack at the 205-pound title.
But first, a look back at their original bout at UFC 76 and one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sports.
When the UFC -- or rather Zuffa -- bought Pride FC, fans didn't get everything their overactive imaginations hoped for. There was no Fedor Emelianenko and no supercards pitting each promotion's champions against each other. Hell, there wasn't even a second promotion to make those kinds of events possible.
Despite the UFC opening an office in Japanese and stating they would continue putting on shows under the Pride banner, the stories promotion died a quiet death months later.
What the fans did get was a handful of Pride superstars making their way into the Octagon. Names like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, and the top light heavyweight in the world Mauricio Rua.
It wasn't perfect but it would have to do. And while Dan Henderson -- Pride's last 203- champion -- had gotten an immediate title shot, "Shogun" would have to prove his mettle in the Octagon before earning that honor. He was booked against Forrest Griffin who had become a huge fan favorite after his much lauded battle with Stephan Bonnar at the first TUF finale.
"Shogun" was predicted to run through Griffin en route to establishing an undisputed number one light heavyweight in the world. Griffin was predicted to take a beating and put himself further in the UFC's good graces.
What ended up happening was far more different.
Let's take a closer look!
The size difference between the two is immediately apparent. Griffin opens up immediately with a leg kick and "Shogun" shoots in. He threatens with a couple of different submission attempts but the American is able to scramble out of them.
Back to their feet and almost immediately back to the mat as Rua nails another takedown. The Brazilian spends some time on top of his opponent but does little damage before Griffin is able to stand back up.
Then, turning the tables on his Brazilian foe, it's Griffin who nails a perfect trip takedown that elicits a thunderous cheer from the crowd. The American pounds on him for a bit before backing away and allowing the fight back to its feet.
Rua gets another takedown but it swept by Griffin who ends the round on top. This wasn't exactly the shellacking that many MMA pundits anticipated.
Opening the next round, the Xtreme Couture fighter begins to use his lengthy range to keep his opponent at bay. Several jabs find their mark before Rua is able to wrap up a leg for a takedown. For someone who carved his reputation on the skin of the opponents he slammed fists and knees into, Rua is spending an awful lot of time shooting for takedowns.
A huge elbow lands onto Griffin's forehead and the skin immediately splits apart. Blood now streaming down his face as they enter the second half of the round, the American's behavior indicates he's been here before. On the other hand, "Shogun" is continuously dropping his hands and sucking in deep breaths.
The laziest takedown attempt ever from Rua ends with Griffin taking his back at first and then ending up in half guard as he drops punch after punch. The round ends in this manner, a demoralizing situation for "Shogun," to be sure, but a rallying cry for Griffin and his fans.
The final round opens up as the others have with a "Shogun" takedown followed by a Griffin reversal. The Brazilian was able to implement this gameplan during the first round but trying to hold down a fighter who outweighs you by as much as 20 pounds is tiring. That exhaustion has made his attempts to keep the fight on the mat nearly impossible.
With less than half a minutes remaining, Rua gives up his back after having taking multiple punches to the head and body and having a forearm ground into his jaw. Griffin pounces and snakes his arm under his opponent's chin. He tightens and flexes, preventing oxygen from entering "Shogun's" lungs. And when it becomes clear to him that he won't be able to escape, Rua taps.
The now iconic image of Griffin -- bloody and tired -- sprinting away from Rua's body with his arms in the air and head shaking in disbelief is now engrained in the mind of every fan.
The dynamic of Griffin as a fighter had shifted from underdog scrapper to possible world champion. But not all were convinced of this transformation especially after news of Rua's knee problems and subsequent surgeries came to light.
After the first TUF winner went on to best Quinton Jackson after five rounds of action months later, there was no doubting it. After years of speculation as to who was the best 205-pounder in the world -- whether it was Chuck Liddell, Wanderlei Silva, "Rampage" or "Shogun" -- for a brief period in 2008, it was Forrest Griffin.
"... I will not quit. I will not break and I will fight you like a dog for every second of every round. I am not a super-talented guy, I'm just a dude who will fight you tooth and nail."
Rua didn't seem prepared for that at UFC 76.
Will he be prepared on Saturday?