Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight Nate Quarry, who was forced to bow out of the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) due to an ankle injury, finally made his Octagon debut in early 2005, pounding out Lodune Sincaid by way of technical knockout (TKO).
He was quickly paired off against Shonie Carter and Pete Sell, but they too, would meet the same fate as "The Vanilla Gorilla," succumbing to strikes inside the opening frame. "The Rock," based on his electric start, was on the fast-track to mixed martial arts (MMA) superstardom.
Only one hurdle remained.
His name was Rich Franklin, a former math teacher who compiled an impressive 20-1 record with five wins under the ZUFFA banner, including a TKO victory over Evan Tanner at UFC 53 to win the division strap. None of that mattered, however, according to Quarry's pre-fight scouting report.
"Rich Franklin has a weak chin and I have heavy hands."
Similar to Chris Leben's promise to send Anderson Silva back to Japan, where the competition is a little easier, Quarry's verbal gaffe was only further compounded by his performance against "Ace," which took place nearly seven years ago in the main event of UFC 56: "Full Force" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Here's how it all went down.
A touch of gloves and the fighters spend the first 40 seconds bobbing and weaving. "We haven't seen Nate Quarry on the ground," remarks UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, in a bit of humorous foreshadowing, when asked about the challenger's all-around game.
Quarry uncorks a right high kick but slips and lands on his keister.
Franklin rushes in while his opponent scrambles to his feet. "Ace" manages one knee from the Plum before they break away and reset. The champion finds a home for the right hand, followed by a high kick that's partially blocked and a quick 1-2 combination.
"Rich Franklin throwing bombs, looks like he's trying to land the big right hand," observes the Fear Factor host.
Quarry counter-punches his way out of danger but takes one in the yams. He walks it off as referee John McCarthy unsympathetically barks at him to "go." He lumbers back to the center of the cage and Franklin stuns him with a hard left hand.
Beginning, meet end.
"The Rock" gets on his bicycle and circles out of danger, applauding in the process. Franklin smells blood and follows up with a second hard left that puts Quarry on the mat. He looks to the official for guidance and gets the green light to continue his assault.
Quarry ties up a leg in an effort to survive and manages to muscle his way back to his feet.
He rattles off a lazy push-kick and chases it with reckless punches. Franklin darts out of harm's way and baits him to the center of the cage. They paw at one another for a few seconds and at the 2:31 mark of round one, "Ace" sends one right down the pipe that ends the fight.
In spectacular fashion.
Quarry's lights go out, he snaps to attention and crashes to the canvas like a falling softwood, arms rigid and chest heaving. Franklin, who collapses for a quick prayer, is mobbed by his cageside crew, including eventual TUF guy Jorge Gurgel, among others.
Will history repeat itself in China?
While he's no longer the champion, Franklin has the opportunity for another highlight-reel knockout against the Sanshou stylings of Cung Le, who headlines the UFC on FUEL TV 6 event opposite "Ace" this Saturday (Nov. 10, 2012) at the CotaiArena in Macao.
Who sleeps in on Saturday morning?