It all started with an online poll.
Anderson Silva had only competed once in the UFC, completely and utterly humiliating Chris Leben via 48 second knockout. The Brazilian did not miss on a single strike attempt in the process either. People forget how good of a win this really was as Leben had been 5-0 in the UFC with a 15-1 overall record at the time.
In response to his incredible performance, the UFC placed a poll on its homepage just one week later, asking fans who "The Spider" should battle next. There were plenty of interesting options including former title challenger David Loiseau, The Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Kendall Grove, top Pancrase prospect Nate Marquardt, rising TUF 1 prospect Mike Swick and just for shits and giggles, they added UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin.
The response was overwhelming. The people wanted him to battle for the belt.
Less than four months later, "The Spider" stepped inside the cage at UFC 64 to challenge for immortality.
And boy did he make another big impact.
Again, in case you didn't realize just how good Rich Franklin was at the time, here's some context.
"Ace" was 22-1 with a 7-0 UFC record and his lone career loss had been to Lyoto Machida in Japan at a 214 pound catchweight. He had already defended the title twice in impressive fashion and people were talking about him being champion for a very long time, perhaps even being the best in the world pound-for-pound.
Franklin was also HUGE. He was cutting as much to fight at middleweight as anyone else on the planet. Don't forget that he was a tremendous ambassador for the sport as well, with the looks, style, smarts and that good ol' fashioned American charm to be one of the biggest faces of the company.
What Anderson Silva did to him that night has reverberated throughout history. His literal face-smashing destruction of the champion dropped jaws. It was a complete and utter one-sided ass-whooping.
This was the best middleweight on the planet being made to look completely clueless by a lanky, Thai plum-using, foreign wrecking machine.
If you saw this on pay-per-view or were fortunate enough to be there live, the crowd was stunned into an eerie silence. Silva joyously danced around the cage while only crickets greeted him. Those poor fans had no idea that had just witnessed the beginning of the title reign of the greatest UFC fighter of all time.
Perhaps they had forgotten that they were the ones that had given him the mandate to be there in the first place.
Silva has now won a UFC record 14 straight bouts, defending his middleweight title a record nine times. He'll be looking to defend the belt next Saturday night (July 7, 2012) against Chael Sonnen, the only man to ever seriously threaten his reign as champion.
Perhaps the people knew more than they let on back in 2006 after all.