Kevin Ferguson was on borrowed time.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White recruited the barbecueweight champion to help bolster his ratings for the all-heavyweight season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 10, which also included former NFL stars Marcus Jones, Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione.
Along with well-traveled veteran and eventual winner, Roy Nelson.
When episode three rolled around and "Big Country" quickly reminded us of what Sean Gannon had already proved on YouTube, some mixed martial arts (MMA) fans wondered if "Kimbo Slice" would be one-and-done under the ZUFFA banner.
No way, no how.
TUF 10 live finale was just around the corner and there were ratings to be had. And for all his tomfoolery outside the cage, Ferguson was a bona fide record breaker, pulling in over six million viewers for his Elite XC: "Primetime" main event opposite James Thompson back in 2008.
Enter Houston Alexander.
"The Assassin" was known for his heavy hands and penchant for devil-may-care slugfests, so you can imagine White's surprise when he circled the cage for 15 minutes with a pocket full of posies. Ferguson walked and stalked his way to a unanimous decision win in one of the worst fights in recent memory.
That, coupled with his technical knockout loss to Nelson on the Spike TV reality show, and Kimbo was a bust.
But it was unlikely Ferguson would be released in victory, so the bearded pugilist was instead paired off with Mitrione, who also fell short in his pursuit of the coveted "six-figure contract." He had, however, redeemed himself by pounding out Jones in the opening fight of the live finale.
Perhaps he wasn't such a "Meathead" after all.
Slice would either prove himself worthy at the UFC 113: "Machida vs. Shogun 2" pay-per-view (PPV) event, which took place on May 8, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, or leave "The City of Saints" with his tail between his legs.
Here's what happened.
No touch of gloves to get the opening frame underway. Mitrione circles left with a shit-eating grin and uncorks a high kick that just grazes his opponent's head. Kimbo retaliates with a flurry and "Meathead" gets on his bicycle before eating a straight right.
Then comes a colossal error in judgement.
Mitrione goes high with the leg for a second time, but Ferguson is waiting, wrapping him up and slamming him to the canvas. The former NFL'er tries to roll through it but Slice is too powerful and Donkey Kongs him from his knees as the crowd erupts in approval.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a fight.
Before Kimbo can posture, Mitrione locks him in a tight triangle choke as UFC color commentator Joe Rogan screams over the crowd, "He's got it! All he's got to do is grab that ankle! He's secured it!" Secured or not, the Miami mauler wasn't in any danger of tapping and eventually broke free.
Ferguson spends the next minute in half guard working short elbows and trying to figure out how to advance position. Regrettably, his inexperience on the ground allows Mitrione to secure an underhook and escape, only to get slammed back down, albeit temporarily.
"Kimbo lets him up," observes Rogan. "That might mean he's tired."
Back on the feet and Slice takes a deep breath. Mitrione punishes his tired foe with a combination of body blows mixed in with knees. A powerful inside leg kick dumps Ferguson on the floor and "Meathead" pounces, locking up a gator roll with just 25 seconds to go.
Time expires before Kimbo does.
Round two gets underway and Ferguson is exhausted. Mitrione walks him down and they exchange punches before tying up and taking it to the fence. Slice working for a takedown and brushes off a guillotine attempt before breaking away.
Back to the center of the cage and Mitrione lands another hard leg kick. Then another ... and another. Slice is limping, wobbly and the last kick that lands, sends him to the floor. "Meathead" lets him up and resumes the abuse with a second helping of kicks and punches.
"Matt Mitrione looks fantastic in this fight," says an approving Rogan.
Ferguson changes levels but is too tired and too banged up to make anything happen, slumping to the ground and getting mounted before referee Dan Miragliotta decides he's had enough punishment and (finally) lunges in to make the save.
It would be the last time Slice ever stepped foot inside a cage.
Following his emphatic win, Mitrione embarked on a three-fight winning streak with two stoppages. He was upended by Cheick Kongo in an ugly decision loss last October, but has a chance to get back into the win column by filling in for the ailing Shane Carwin this Saturday night (Dec. 15, 2012) on the FX Channel.
Six seasons later and "Meathead" is finally headed to a TUF finale, against Nelson, emanating from "The Joint" at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Where he goes from there is entirely up to him, but actions speak louder than words.