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Anderson Silva has run a gauntlet through some of the best middleweight mixed martial arts in the world in the past 23 months.
He obliterated the iron-chinned Chris Leben. He twice pulverized the marvelously well-rounded Rich Franklin. He overwhelmed Nate Marquardt, a man many believed had the style to defeat him.
And he found a way to submit the dangerous Dan Henderson, the former Pride double champion.
"Anderson Silva," UFC president Dana White says excitedly, "is (an expletive) monster."
Silva was a monster who looked decidedly human – and beatable – against a low-key and unassuming guy on Feb. 3, 2007. But no matter how beatable Silva looked against Travis Lutter on that night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, he wouldn't lose his middleweight championship.
Lutter somehow failed to make weight for what would be the fight of his life. A guy who had been renowned in the industry for his professionalism and reliability, he never even came close.
The Texan weighed 187 pounds on his first attempt, which came after he spent hours on a treadmill and in the sauna early in the day. After another stint in the sauna, he only lost a half-pound.
And so, the title shot that he had earned by winning "The Ultimate Fighter 4" evaporated as the pounds would not. He'd have to fight Silva in a non-title fight and, worse, earn the scorn of thousands of MMA fans around the world who were incensed by his inability to make 185 pounds.
"Just a bad miscalculation on my part," Lutter says simply. "I thought I could pull the weight, but it turns out I was wrong."
Lutter will return to the octagon for the first time since that nightmare of a weekend when he faces Franklin at UFC 83 in Montreal on April 19.
It will have be more than 14 months since Lutter has had a fight – he had to pull out of a planned bout against Ryan Jensen at UFC 74 last August because of a neck injury – and Lutter wants to give the fans something to remember him by other than the scales.
"It's nothing to be proud of," Lutter said. "But if you had told me the day before that this would have happened, I would have said you are crazy."
Burt Watson, though, had some kind of an intuition. Watson doesn't have to step on a scale. He doesn't have to make weight. He can eat whatever he wants and only his doctor may nag him about it.
But Watson, the UFC's site coordinator with the infectious smile and bubbly personality, is all but obsessed with making certain fighters on the cards he's working make the weight.
There has been a trend in boxing in recent years, notably led by former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo, for the fighters to miss weight.
By and large, it hasn't been a problem in the UFC, though. Much of it is due to the professionalism of the athletes, no doubt, but don't discount the role that Watson plays.
"My fighters," he says, authoritatively, "make weight."
In part, they do it because of Watson's insistence at getting them on a scale as quickly as possible upon their arrival at the site of the card.
Four days before the fight, Watson's eyes widened when he ordered Lutter to the scale and saw the number 208 flash in the display. Watson sensed trouble but Lutter insisted he was fine. He had made the cut from 204 successfully before and had just completed a solid training camp.
He believed he would make weight without an issue and was excited because he felt he had the style that could beat Silva.
"I still think I could beat him," Lutter said of Silva, who submitted him with strikes in the second round of what became a non-title bout. "We match up wrong for each other. I don't think he's the best 185-pounder in the world other than me. Other guys would give him big problems. Matt Lindland, I think, kills him. Anderson is an incredible standup fighter. He looks like Superman on his feet. But his takedown defense is not that good and … "
Lutter's voice trailed off. He's been kicking around MMA for years, operating with a decidedly lower profile than guys such as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Matt Hughes. He got his opportunity to face Silva after winning the middleweight division on The Ultimate Fighter season four.
Lutter is like a guy who found a winning lottery ticket only to lose it as he was headed out to cash it.
It's a painful subject for him to discuss, but it's one that will be brought up almost non-stop until he does something so dramatic that it renders the episode at the scales moot.
He has a great chance in Montreal against Franklin, who has looked like Superman himself against pretty much everyone but Silva.
A win over a guy the caliber of Franklin would go a long way toward erasing the stigma associated with the Silva fight.
"I don't want to be perceived as a bad guy," said Lutter, who said he's received a significant amount of virulent email in the aftermath of his failure at the scales. "I'm not a bad guy. I worked hard for that fight, but I made a miscalculation. But judging from some of the email some of these guys have sent me, you'd think I'd raped their sister and killed their mother.
"I realize the fans are fickle. That's the way it is. Look at Rich. At one point, he was the greatest thing ever, then after the fights with Anderson, these same guys are saying he sucks. The great thing for me is, I have the opportunity now to do something about what they say. Rich is a great opponent and if you beat a guy like that, it's going to make people notice."
Lutter knows that many of the fans who jam the weigh-in the day before UFC 83 will hold their breaths as he walks to the scales.
This time, though, Lutter said he's leaving nothing to chance. On April 8, 11 days before the fight, he was already down to 198 pounds.
"Given what's happened, this is a huge fight for me," Lutter said. "It's been a while since I fought, and I'm ready to get in there and do it. I guess I owe the people a good show. That's really my goal, to get in there and give them what they came to see."