So, two guys climbed into the octagon a year ago in Houston. One of them landed 21 (or so) consecutive punches to win by technical knockout in the very first round of the fight, about as much of a massacre as you can get.
Saturday they are fighting again – a big rematch. Except, virtually no one thinks the guy who landed the 21 in a row will win. Everyone believes the guy who received the 21 punches, winding up flat on his back trying to tap out, will dominate.
Anything can happen, of course. Especially in mixed martial arts. Anyone can land a lucky punch, but 21 of them?
Can a 21-punch knockout mean absolutely nothing at all?
Apparently yes, because despite the enduring image of Georges St. Pierre getting pummeled by Matt Serra, you won't find too many people willing to give Serra even a puncher's chance in their rematch Saturday.
"I think that's obvious," laughed Serra this week. "I'm a huge underdog. Maybe not as huge as last time … "
Actually, he may be. And that's saying something considering that back then Serra was an 8-to-1 underdog, a novelty act, reality TV champion and journeyman lightweight about to be thrown against the most dangerous welterweight in the world. This looked like a bad idea about to turn bloody.
Even UFC president Dana White, whose entire business is based on getting people to shell out money for a competitive fight, could hardly pretend this was going to be much of anything and predicted a mismatch.
Oh, it was a mismatch, all right.
"He shocked the world," White said.
Now he's going to have to again. That 21-punch barrage isn't worth a thing in the public mind. Crying about a lack of respect is the most tiresome thing in sports, but Serra might actually have a point.
It's not a coincidence that the fight is being held in St. Pierre's hometown of Montreal; where 21,000 fans are expected to provide an overwhelming home-cage advantage.
"It's kind of like 'Rocky 4,' " Serra laughed of Balboa having to fight Ivan Drago in the Soviet Union. "I make a lot of jokes about that."
Serra, a New Yorker, makes a lot of jokes about everything. Which makes him a likeable everyman. But it may not help his prospects on Saturday.
When St. Pierre's camp made a few excuses after last year's stunning loss, Serra channeled his inner Ricky Bobby and went after the French Canadian.
"Aw, Frenchie, go back to your red wine and hockey game," he said.
St. Pierre, who is ranked No. 2 in the Y! Sports monthly mixed martial arts media poll of the world's Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters, was not pleased.
"I'm going to let my fist answer back next time," he told the media back in January. Last week he added, "He called me 'Frenchie.' He crossed the line. He shouldn't have said it."
So here is Serra, still way smaller than St. Pierre. Here is Serra, still lacking the track record of excellence of St. Pierre. Here is Serra, seemingly with a fraction of the skill sets of the 26-year-old St. Pierre.
And now St. Pierre won't overlook him – thanks those 21 straight punches – won't lack motivation – thanks to "Frenchie" – and won't lack fan support – thanks to all those fans in Montreal, many of them French themselves.
Yes, Matt Serra may have whipped Georges St. Pierre a year ago, but today he is even a bigger underdog than ever.
"I try not to get caught up in the hype and the fluff and the so-called expert's opinion," Serra said. "They can look at it anyway they want. I know I'm the underdog and I'm very comfortable in that role."
Conventional wisdom aside, shouldn't everyone take a second to think this over again? A year ago no one thought Matt Serra had a chance … except Matt Serra. And this year no one thinks Matt Serra has a chance … except Matt Serra.
Yes, St. Pierre is more physically gifted, but Serra says fights are about match ups and he matches up perfectly against St. Pierre. The home crowd should be a factor, but what if it only serves to add pressure on the hometown guy?
St. Pierre is 15-2, owns victories over Matt Hughes (twice), B.J. Penn and Sean Sherk and has everyone asking after this fight if he'll climb in weight class for a super match against Anderson Silva. And yes, Serra is 9-4, rarely even fights (about once a year), is coming off an injury and has no one discussing what's next because no one thinks there is much of a "next."
You'd be a fool to think Serra can win. Lightning can't strike twice, can it? Appalachian State can't beat Michigan again, can it?
But every time St. Pierre starts dishing out menacing comments -- "I'm going to hit as hard as I can" -- Serra keeps laughing and manages to antagonize him even more.
And the guy who no one thinks is going to win, sure sounds confident he will. Again.
And that guy is on a 21-punch winning streak.
"When the cage shuts," Serra said, "it's just us two."
And we know how that turned out last time. Don't we?
- Matt Serra