As darkness falls and the moon glows atop the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, the most anticipated middleweight matchup in recent UFC history will captivate millions of MMA fans worldwide.
Chatter and debate will turn to anticipation and reality as current UFC middleweight champion Anderson "The Spider" Silva faces the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet and his most daunting opponent yet: "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort.
Following a heated staredown at weigh-ins, and the recent revelation that Anderson Silva feels betrayed by his former training partner and friend for accepting this fight, speculation continues as to which Silva will show up inside the Octagon tonight.
Will the dominant "Spider" who destroyed former champions Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson and Forrest Griffin be the superior force inside the cage?
Or will it be the arrogant, disinterested Silva who teased and taunted past contenders in Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia showing his face again, this time for the biggest fight of his career?
In the opposite corner, will the 19-year-old Vitor Belfort who stormed into the UFC with brutal knockouts of Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva exhibit the same lightning-fast hand speed that earned him his moniker?
Who will win this middleweight clash?
Or will the more methodical and tactical Belfort who has knocked out four of his past five opponents enter the Octagon to put an end to Silva's nearly five year reign as middleweight champion?
These questions and more will be answered tonight at UFC 126.
With weigh-ins completed, workouts a training memory and press obligations done, both fighters will have Saturday afternoon to prepare for the biggest fight of their careers.
As a former fighter myself (never at the UFC level), the calm before the storm was a time for me to reflect on all the positive abilities I would bring to the cage, and to properly prepare my body for what was sure to be a battle.
Visualizing the game plan and mentally executing the fight strategy would dominate my thoughts. I'd practice light shadow boxing and slow tempo execution of various Muay-Thai strikes and Brazilian jiu-jitsu holds inside my hotel room.
Re-hydrating after the weight cut and eating properly is paramount to prepare for a potential five round battle just a few hours away.
To be left only with one's thoughts in a city like Las Vegas can be disastrous if a strong support system does not exist. Boredom should be replaced by periodic naps, meetings with coaches and random interaction with fellow fighters and media members.
Rest and relaxation is of the greatest importance on fight day.
As the afternoon winds down and fans begin to descend on the Mandalay Bay, nerves and anticipation will grow for these two MMA icons. Millions of adoring fans will tune in to bear witness to what may be the most explosive battle inside the famed Octagon ever.
The result will be an undisputed champion at 185 pounds.
As February 5th becomes February 6th, one of two things will happen: either Anderson Silva will defend his title for a record eighth time, or Dana White will crown a new middleweight champion.
As for me, I sit in nervous anticipation awaiting the storm that will be released by these two elite fighters.
I hope that in the end, all questions shrouding this match will be answered, and the fans witness ultimate fighting at its best.
Enjoy the fights.