Chuck Liddell had lost three fights in a row and five of his last six. The mohawked warrior who once ruled the light heavyweight division with an iron fist, stopping each and every one of his opponents struggled to find a win. The final nail in his coffin was a knockout loss to Rich Franklin, a blown up middleweight not known for putting opponents to sleep.
Randy Couture was finding success moving between light heavyweight and heavyweight, taking showcase bouts more than anything. But after three consecutive wins, the possibility of another title shot became more realistic. Nearing 50 years old, he was booked against Lyoto Machida but the former champion's crane kick not only knocked out Couture tooth's, it also forced "The Natural" to retire for a second -- and more permanent -- time.
Tito Ortiz, once the poster boy for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), has only won one fight in over five years. The past half decade has been marred by losses, injuries and more tabloid fodder than Kim Kardashian could handle. It's expected his UFC 148 bout with Forrest Griffin will be "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy's" last.
These three men were all responsible for bringing the UFC to the level it is at today. Ortiz's dominant run through the 205 pound division gave the company the star it needed to survive "The Dark Ages" and those early, shaky years after Zuffa became owners. Liddell and Couture served as coaches on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and became instant stars as a result, ushering the company into a new era.
But the latter two are retired and Ortiz looks to be on his way in few months. The UFC found replacements in Brock Lesnar, Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre but the heavyweight is once again a professional wrestler, the middleweight kingpin is no spring chicken and the French Canadian's bevy of decision wins have worn fans' patience thin.
Not to worry as UFC on Fuel TV 2: "Gustafsson vs. Silva" proved there are plenty of young up and comers to take their place.
Who are these heirs apparent? Find out after the jump.
Siyar Bahadurzada finally made his Octagon debut last night and didn't fail to disappoint. As I highlighted last month, "The Great" has a nasty penchant of knocking his opponents out in brutal fashion and lived up to the hype when he stepped inside the cage with Paulo Thiago.
A little over 30 seconds into the fight, the Brazilian charged forward and caught a short punch to the jaw which immediately put him to sleep. "The Killer" had mounted another victim and turns 28 on Wednesday.
John Maguire was a highly touted British prospect when he signed with the UFC late last year. He boasted a record with 16 wins and only three losses when he was picked up and booked for UFC 138. His win over Justin Edwards wasn't anything to write home about but when he stepped inside the Octagon last night against DaMarques Johnson, it was a completely different affair.
The TUF 9 runner-up was thoroughly outclassed in every department. Johnson couldn't defend any takedowns and once the fight went to the mat, he was outgrappled by his British opponent. A longshot kimura attempt from the American led to a beautifully transitioned armbar a la Matt Hughes' win over Georges St. Pierre at UFC 50.
The Briton is still a year and some change away from his 30th birthday.
The main event saw Alexander Gustafsson, only 25 years old, completely dominate Thiago Silva, a five year UFC veteran. In that time, Silva has stepped inside the Octagon with the best of the best. He's taken on Machida and Rashad Evans while notching up brutal knockouts over Keith Jardine and Houston Alexander.
Gustafsson almost made him look like an amateur.
Almost every time the Brazilian threw a punch, it connected with nothing but air. The Swede used his reach to keep Silva on the outside and peppered away with jabs, busting up the Brazilian's face in process. And that's not even including the first round knockdown "The Mauler" managed to score.
Gustafsson looked better than he ever had in his previous six UFC bouts. Is he ready for a title shot? No. Are Maguire and Bahadurzada? Again, that would be negative.
But these three young men, all under 30 years old, prove old stars will retire but new ones will always be there to take their place.
We saw a few of time shine last night.