Chuck and Rich were on top of the world – arguably the top 2 guys in the top MMA promotion in the known universe at the time. Chuck was preparing for his 4th LHW title defense, and his second soiree with Tito Ortiz, already having avenged losses to Couture and Jeremy Horn, and notching first-round KO wins against Babalu, Overeem and K-Rand to boot.
Meanwhile, Rich was riding an 8-fight win streak, beating the likes of Shamrock, Jorge Rivera when he was a beast, Quarry, Loiseau, and winning the 185 strap by beating a ridiculously-talented Evan Tanner (RIP Evan) in the middle of that tear. (If not for a certain “Dragon” fellow, Franklin would have been on a 22-fight win streak… just sayin’.)
Each had arguably their biggest fight of their career to that point coming up – Liddell defending in a rematch against Tito in December, and Ace defending against Anderson Silva in Silva’s 2nd UFC fight the very next day. Fate can be a cruel, cruel whore sometimes.
With a combined record of 7-8 after that point, including both losing their coveted titles, Chuck and Rich seem to be “washed-up” to the naked eye, or at least “garden-variety”. But what better way to reinvigorate your career than beating someone in the same boat you are? Someone that was once as prolific as you were, someone who understands what it means to be at the top of the game, and someone who would want nothing more than to get back there? And, most importantly, someone who has everything to lose, just like you do? Very likely the loser of this fight will have their career ended as a result, or at least their chance at being relevant ever again, which to many fighters amounts to a career.
But don’t think these two will go out without a fight. Chuckie is looking better than ever, and Rich seems to be at the top of his game too. I will not only say that this will be FotN; I will also say that whoever wins will go on a tear and get a title shot within 12-15 months. I said it, and I didn’t even come CLOSE to stuttering. Now who will win the fight, and who they will be facing for the belt is still up in the air (cough Jon Jones cough), but regardless it will be a fun journey to be a part of as a fan.
(For those who care, Ace is sitting at -145 right now, so Vegas thinks it’s pretty close too.)