For two and a half years, Frank Trigg had to hear about how he squandered a chance at winning one of the most highly regarded prizes in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA). He had to hear about how he could have beaten his opponent, taken the belt home, and woke up the next day as the world's best welterweight.
For two and a half years, Matt Hughes heard his dominant win -- a finish at that -- undersold and devalued as a fluke by his rival. He had his submission loss to B.J. Penn thrown in his face as proof that his time had come and gone.
UFC 52: "Couture vs. Liddell 2" was one of the most important events in the promotion's history. After the game changer that was Forrest Griffin's bout with Stephan Bonnar at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale, the UFC needed a huge show to continue their newfound momentum.
The main event definitely delivered as "The Iceman" knocked out his opponent in the first round. But the most lasting memory for many fans stemmed from the welterweight title bout on the card.
This Saturday (Sept. 24), Hughes steps inside the cage against Josh Koscheck at UFC 135: "Jones vs. Rampage" in what could be the final bout of his storied career. Should the country boy hang it up this weekend, let's pay our respects by taking a look back at his second tilt with "Twinkle Toes," complete with one of the greatest comebacks you'll ever see in the sport.
A Maniac will survive...
Since their main event bout at UFC 45: "Revolution," Frank Trigg and Matt Hughes hadn't forgotten about one another.
Trigg was intent on getting a second title shot and making good on it. And he was more than ready to demolish any fighter who might stand in his way. Through happenstance or not, his opponents ended up being former foes of Hughes' that the welterweight legend had trouble with.
Dennis Hallman -- who owns two submission wins over Hughes -- was the first to feel Trigg's wrath. "Twinkle Toes" did what Hughes could never do and beat "Superman," scoring a technical knockout (TKO) victory in the first round.
Next up for Trigg was Renato Verissimo. The Brazilian had given Hughes fits four months prior but the former title contender stopped "Charuto" with vicious elbows in less than 10 minutes.
On the other side of the coin, Hughes dropped his bout immediately after his first fight with Trigg, the now infamous "choke and kiss" at the hands of B.J. Penn. When "The Prodigy" bolted from the UFC, Hughes earned a title bout by beating Verissimo and finally got his crown back when he submitted Georges St. Pierre.
Once again atop the 170-pound mountain, Hughes saw a familiar face clawing his way to his throne. His head was shaved and his toes were painted.
And he wanted the champion's blood.
Let's get down to it already!
Even before the fight starts, Trigg gets nose to nose with his opponent, prompting Hughes to shove the challenger back. The crowd roars in anticipation for what promises to be a memorable fight.
Back in his corner, Trigg blows a kiss to Hughes, throwing more gasoline on this already-roaring fire of a feud.
They meet in the center and begin to feel each other out. A head kick from Hughes is blocked and he closes the distance to attempt a takedown. Trigg defends and they clinch up against the fence, jockeying for position.
Knees inside are thrown and one catches Hughes a little below the belt. He breaks from his opponent, backs away and looks to the referee while trying to keep Trigg at arm's length.
For whatever reason, the referee doesn't stop the fight. It appears as if he was going to but Trigg's onslaught stopped him from doing so. It's a referee error on par with the Floyd Mayweather/Victor Ortiz debacle.
Trigg swarms Hughes, machine gunning lefts and rights on the fallen champ as he is slumped against the cage. It seems, at least for a moment, that the lights have turned off on Hughes.
"Twinkle Toes" lands punches, elbows, hammerfists, EVERYTHING from half-guard and then full mount and it seems that the image of Dana White wrapping the welterweight title around his waist seems like a foregone conclusion.
Hughes gives up his back and Trigg works towards a rear naked choke, a bit of payback from their first bout. The choke is sunk and the champ is turning bright red.
Suddenly, he spins out and ends up on top! Hughes lifts Trigg off the mat and as the challenger's feet dangle two feet from the mat, carries him across the Octagon and slams him down. Everyone in the arena is screaming themselves hoarse at this point.
Hughes pops into mount, postures up, and begins raining down ground and pound much to the delight of the crowd. Elbows bust Trigg open and one can't help feel they are watching a fight that will be watched years and possibly decades from now.
Trigg makes the same mistake he did in their first fight and gives his back up to the champion who is more than happy to take advantage. Wrapping an arm around the neck of "Twinkle Toes", he squeezes in, threatening to crush the trachea and sap all oxygen from the challenger's lungs.
And with three quick taps, we have another first round victory for Hughes and another rear naked choke loss for Trigg.
Hughes would go on to a couple of non-title affairs before finally exacting a measure of revenge against his Hilo rival. Trigg would become the Chael Sonnen of his day and be the butt of countless submission defense jokes after a second consecutive rear naked choke loss, this time at the hands of "GSP."
In the end, Trigg never got the title he sought for so long and Hughes wouldn't be able to hang onto it for too long after.
But for the brief moment that they were both atop of the welterweight mountain, fighting never seemed more fun.