At the end of August in 2006, fans packed the Mandalay Bay Events Center to catch the UFC's biggest star, Chuck Liddell, face Renato "Babalu" Sobral, and a rematch of one of the UFC's biggest fights between Stephen Bonnar and Forrest Griffin.
But in the first fight of the pay-per-view offering, fans were treated to one of the fastest rising 155-pound Mixed Martial Artists around in 21-year-old tap artist Jamie Varner.
Most experts were predicting a steamrolling at the hands of another fast rising 155-pounder, future No. 1 contender Hermes Franca. Instead fans were treated to a back and forth contest that might have gone Varner's way until Franca caught an armbar late in the third.
It proved that not only was Varner for real, but at the age of 21 and training at the one of the up and coming camps (Arizona Combat Sports), he would only improve on the feet and start to beat fighters on the level of Franca.
Since then, Varner has won three fights with no decisions, including the biggest fight and best opponent he has faced in Razor Rob McCollough.
In that fight, Varner took a TKO in the third to win the WEC lightweight title.
This Sunday, Varner (14-2 2NC) puts the belt up-for-grabs for the first time against the undefeated Marcus Hicks (8-0 with no decisions). If Varner can get past Hicks, we might start to wonder how he might carve out a path to the top 10 of the lightweight division.
Unfortunately for Varner, that just might not be possible with the best opponents in the weight class competing for the UFC and DREAM. But Varner possesses a very well-rounded game having came up in the disciplines of boxing and wrestling simultaneously that could stand up quite well against the UFC's current line of contenders for BJ Penn.
Potential matchups with Tyson Griffin, Frankie Edgar, and Joe Stevenson would prove to be very exciting and just the ticket Varner needs to show the casual fan what WEC fans already know...that "The Worm" is set to slither his way into the 155 pound rankings.