Reigning 205-pound champion, Jon Jones, was coming off a convincing, five-round unanimous decision win over nemesis and former champion Rashad Evans. His victory over "Suga" followed violent finishes against Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson and Mauricio Rua.
Viable contenders were in short supply.
Alexander Gustafsson was in the conversation, but unproven, while Dan Henderson was already 41 years old. It was no surprise then, to hear the mixed martial arts (MMA) fan base embracing future fights at heavyweight, or perhaps one pitting "Bones" against Strikeforce import Daniel Cormier.
Then along came a soft-spoken Brazilian named Glover Teixeira.
The former landscaper was signed to a UFC contract with a fair amount of buzz. While casual fans weren't paying much attention, par for the course for any combatant competing outside the Octagon, the die-hards knew this was a dangerous man.
At 17-2, Teixeira had finished 15 of his victims: 11 by way of knockout or technical knockout and six by submission. In addition, he was battle tested on the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) grappling circuit, racking up wins over Dean Lister, Jorge Bezerra and Armando Sapo.
UFC had seen enough.
After overcoming issues with his visa, Teixeira was finally booked for his first appearance inside the Octagon, a UFC 146 "Prelims" bout on May 26, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada, opposite The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 standout Kyle Kingsbury. "Kingsbu" entered the fight on the heels of an impressive 4-1 run and was expected to be a stiff test for the Brazilian debutant.
Here's what happened.
Teixeira comes firing out of the gate with a 1-2 combination, sending Kingsbury into reverse before unloading another wave of offense. Fists start flying in every direction. "If you've never seen this man fight before, he is a killer," warns cageside color commentator Joe Rogan.
Kingsbury takes advantage of the charging bull and applies a Thai plum, but his attacker shrugs it off with ease and uncorks a looping right hand that rattles the dome. Teixeira laughs off another attempt at the clinch and drops his prey with a short uppercut.
"Kingsbu" crashes to the mat and eats a dozen fists.
Teixeira continues to soften up his wounded opponent with punishing ground-and-pound, before taking advantage of a flailing limb, one he uses to pretzel Kingsbury, secure an arm-triangle choke and induce the tap less than two minutes into the opening frame.
Welcome to the big show, Mr. T.
With his Octagon debut in his rear-view mirror, Teixeira secured dominant finishes over Fabio Maldonado and James Te Huna, and roughed up former light heavyweight champion "Rampage" Jackson en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision win.
Now, in all likelihood, one more gets him a crack at the crown.
To find out if he's eligible to challenge the main event winner of UFC 165: "Jones vs. Gustafsson," Teixeira will first have to dispose of resurgent TUF 8 champion Ryan Bader, who travels to hostile territory this Weds. night (Sept. 4, 2013) to try to play spoiler in the UFC Fight Night 28 headliner on FOX Sports 1, which emanates from the Mineirinho Arena in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Two men enter, one man leaves.
See "Darth's" place in the UFC history books, which came at the expense of another talented Brazilian grappler, by clicking here.