UFC 46 was billed as "Supernatural," an ode to "The Natural" Randy Couture. But February 1, 2004, was the night when two UFC phenoms of years earlier, who had never lived up to billing, both ended up as champions, beating legends in short matches.
Vitor Belfort exploded onto the UFC scene seven years earlier as a 19-year-old whose combination of boxing and grappling was expected to dominate the sport. B.J. Penn was signed to a big contract, by the standards of the era, in 2001, before he had ever had a pro fight, because of stories about how he ran through everyone in training.
Belfort won the flukiest title clincher in history. When throwing a punch at light heavyweight champion Couture, the seam of his glove sliced Couture's left eyelid and left it hanging. It was too dangerous for Couture to continue in such a condition, and the fight was stopped in just 48 seconds.
It was first feared the injury could be career-threatening, as the cut was through the eyelid, exposing the eyeball. Couture was rushed to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas for immediate surgery, and had both retinal and minor corneal abrasion and an inflamed iris. Due to the nature of the loss, he was told if he could return, he was set for an immediate rematch. He recovered and defeated Belfort at UFC 49.
Penn, on the other hand, dominated welterweight champion Matt Hughes. This one was no fluke, as in training, the smaller Penn went to Team Quest in Oregon to prepare with the likes of Olympic-caliber wrestlers Couture and Matt Lindland, who were both bigger than Hughes and better wrestlers.
He ended Hughes' 13-match win streak by taking him down right away, kept control, got Hughes' back and choked him out in 4:39, giving the natural lightweight a world title in the welterweight division. It was shockingly one-sided loss for Hughes, who had been one of the most dominant fighters in company history.
The opening match on the pay-per-view was the only UFC appearance of Lee Murray, a kickboxer best known at the time for knocking out Tito Ortiz in a London street fight 19 months earlier.
Murray caught Jorge Rivera with a triangle armbar from the bottom, and immediately challenged Ortiz, who was in the front row, to a match. Ortiz accepted, but the match, that people were hot to see, never took place.
UFC had no interest in matching the middleweight against a big light heavyweight in Ortiz, and as it turned out, due to visa issues related to prior arrests, UFC could never get Murray back in the country. Murray later garnered international headlines as being the alleged mastermind of one of the world's biggest bank heists, a 53 million pound robbery in 2006 that is the subject of a movie that Time Inc. is putting together. Murray remains imprisoned in Morocco, pending extradition back to Britain.
It's hard to believe a Georges St. Pierre-Karo Parisyan match was an untelevised preliminary match, but this was before both men became stars. At the time, Lorenzo Fertitta was against airing prelim matches, so even though the show went short and there was time, this match didn't air, with St. Pierre, who went to 6-0, taking a unanimous decision.
The most exciting match on the show also never aired, a close Josh Thomson decision over Hermes Franca, which ended Franca's unblemished record, putting him at 8-1.
Frank Mir nearly pulled out of his fight with Wes Sims because he had the flu, which kept him out of the gym for three weeks. But Mir scored a knockout, earning him a future heavyweight title fight.
Matt Serra def. Jeff Curran, unanimous decision
Josh Thomson def. Hermes Franca, unanimous decision
Georges St. Pierre def. Karo Parisyan, unanimous decision
Lee Murray def. Jorge Rivera, submission (triangle armbar), 1:45 R1
Frank Mir def. Wes Sims, KO, 4:21 R2
UFC welterweight championship: B.J. Penn def. Matt Hughes, submission (rear naked choke), 4:39 R1
Renato Verissimo def. Carlos Netwon, unanimous decision
UFC light heavyweight championship: Vitor Belfort def. Randy Couture, TKO, 0:49 R1 (Belfort wins title).