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2009: The UFC comes full circle, thanks to one daring adventurer

(As the UFC turns 20, we revisit each year from 2013 to 1993 with 20 articles in 20 days.)

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it wasn’t actually the case, but at UFC 100, Frank Mir looked about as happy to hear the referee say "alright, now bring it on" as a clay pigeon might upon hearing the word "pull." It was Brock Lesnar at the other end, after all, restrained for one long last second before the shackles would come off and the rivening could commence. The only thing we required as spectators was Mir’s courage in the ordeal

And that was how we celebrated 100 events in the UFC. By feeding Frank Mir, who’d defeated Lesnar famously a year and a half prior in Lesnar’s ballyhooed debut at UFC 81, to His Sworded Thorax. A record-breaking number of households paid for the courtesy. Mir hung around until the second round, but he wore the macabre scene on his face by fight’s end.

Lesnar, ever eloquent in such matters, described it as extracting the horseshoe that had been lodged in Mir’s hind region. That was right after he began somewhat rabidly frothing about the mouth, and just before he said he was going to drink himself some Coors Light (while standing on the Bud Light emblem) and, heck, if we’re keeping it real, maybe even "get on top" of his wife later that night.

It was a lot to digest.

And that piece of theater was the crescendo moment in the UFC’s PPV numbering system, which is now careening off towards UFC 1000 and beyond. Georges St-Pierre had dominated Thiago Alves in the co-main event even with a torn groin muscle for half the bout. And Dan Henderson, to the gratitude of patriots from the Puget Sound to the Everglades and on up through the Adirondacks, knocked Michael Bisping out with a ridiculous right hand. "To this day people thank me for it," Henderson says.

(Note: Why Bisping was circling into that power right now becomes the problem of future generations to solve).

All of this was fine in the wholesome sense. But, at the same time, all of this paled next to the hair-raising moment just before Lesnar was loosed on Mir. That was when Bruce Buffer, the evangelist of the Octagon who whips everyone into a frenzy with his introductions, pulled off the unthinkable.

The Buffer 180º -- which Buffer himself modestly called a "whip turn" before fans apothesized it -- was always more than we could ask for. But Buffer chose UFC 100 to unveil the Buffer 360º, a ridiculous maneuver of lithe acrobatics and aerial illusion, and he stuck the landing while pointing his cue card right between Brock Lesnar’s blond eyebrows.

Game. Set. Match.

"You know, when you do something that’s different and out of your realm, you want to pick the right time," Buffer says. "So with that being the case, there was no other event. It would have to be UFC 100. And I didn’t tell anybody when I was going to do it. If you watch Joe [Rogan]’s video after, he thought I wasn’t going to pull it off, but I saved it for exactly the last precise moment when I was right in front of Brock Lesnar’s face."

Buffer goes into depth about the Buffer 360º in his captivating book, It’s Time!, but words become such paltry things next to The Thing Itself. Why? There are very few moments in the fight game where flawless execution and…what, destiny (?)…come together as if cosmically ordained.

It was Joe Rogan that began challenging Buffer to attempt the stunt to begin with, after putting out a backstage video where Buffer dreamed it into existence. Then a million fans began echoing Rogan’s need to see it. The thing caught fire as the video went viral. From there the Buffer 360º became not only a matter of when and where, but of courage and mettle.

So what did Buffer do? He embraced the biggest stage the UFC had had to that moment…and, for a few brief moments, spun in levitation like a genie materializing from a bottle. It was a thing of cocktail elegance and grace.

"I knew what I was going to do," he says. "The thing is, I don’t rehearse. I don’t plan. I like to go out there and be organic and improvise off the energy I feel from the crowd, whether it’s 50,000 or 20,000 or 10,000 people in the audience. But that night was electric. I couldn’t have for a better script as far as a screenwriter writing a movie of how it came off…it came off perfectly in my opinion. And Joe wrote me an email after that said, ‘not only did you do it, but you did it in front of the biggest, baddest man on the planet.’"

There are obvious hazards for such undertakings. Remember, Buffer tore his meniscus while doing a "grounded 360" at UFC 129 in Toronto. He was playing injured that night with a bad ankle, and as he went into his bunny hop at the end, his knee gave out. Stoically, Buffer didn’t miss any events. How’s that? As the writer Frank Curreri once said, "if Michael Buffer is fine bottle of Bordeaux, then Bruce Buffer is a shot of Jack Daniels." That’s how.

There will of course be other monuments. UFC 200 should take place in 2016. But don’t expect to see the Buffer 540º, or even the 360º again. That bold feat is now frozen in time forever in 2009.

"I’m not an acrobat," Buffer says. "I don’t want to say anything, because again, if something’s going to happen believe me it’ll happen because I decided for it to happen at that exact moment. But the aerial thing, the airborne stuff, that’s over."

Over, but not forgotten.

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