Every fighter in the UFC, whether champion, legend or debutant, has to start somewhere. That somewhere usually isn’t the big show. Occasionally, multiple future stars end up gathered on a single regional card. At the time, this card may not seem significant, but years down the road, we can look back in hindsight and marvel at how stacked that event turned out to be. That’s exactly what we’ll do in this series, called History Lessons.

So, let’s jump in the time machine and travel back. The date was Nov. 26, 2005, and the location was the Tropical Hotel Manaus Sports Complex in Manaus, Brazil. It was time for Jungle Fight 5.

Not every fighter can find success in every outing. At Jungle Fight 5, two men who have seen tremendous amounts of success throughout their careers, including one who has resided near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings for several years now, came up short. The fights may have represented setbacks in their careers, but they both recovered to go on to much greater things.

The evening’s main event featured Brazilian legend José “Pelé” Landi-Jons against Russian striker Alexander Shlemenko.

Running up an 18-2 mark prior to the fight, Shlemenko was once again seeking to overcome a step up in competition. He had spent many of his prior 20 fights in tournament action, taking his first two pro fights in a single night to claim a Stage of Russia Cup 3 tourney championship and advancing to the finals of six other tournaments. In two of those brackets, he suffered losses in the finals, once at the hands of Beslan Isaev and and once courtesy of Vener Galiev. He avenged the loss to Galiev in a different tournament, but that victory was due to an injury TKO. He needed a clear-cut win over a significant opponent, and Landi-Jons fit that role.

It was an interesting time in Pelé’s career. After a 19-4 run that included wins over former UFC champion Pat Miletich and future champ Matt Hughes, Landi-Jons went on a five-fight skid in which he dropped fights to Daijiro Matsui and Carlos Newton under the Pride banner, Lee Murray at Extreme Force 1 and Renato “Babalu” Sobral at Jungle Fight 3. He had rebounded with a knockout victory over Fabricio Monteiro at Jungle Fight 4, but the Muay Thai specialist and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt was an unimpressive 1-5 over his previous six fights when he locked horns with Shlemenko.

The two men went the distance in a fight that Pelé took on the scorecards. It was a disappointing loss for Shlemenko, but the Russian righted the ship just a few weeks later by forcing two opponents to throw in the towel and submitting another en route to capturing the World Pankration Championship 2005 tourney win. He would lose just four more fights in the eight years since his Jungle Fight 5 defeat at the hands of Landi-Jons. He would also go on to avenge his loss to Isaev and pick up key wins over Bubba McDaniel, Brian Rogers, Brett Cooper and Maiquel Falcao on his long road to the Bellator middleweight championship, which he now holds and has successfully defended on two occasions. Among his losses since Jungle Fight 5, Shlemenko has been submitted by current UFC fighter Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, was knocked out by UFC veteran Jordan Radev and failed in a Bellator title bid versus current UFC fighter Hector Lombard. The fourth loss in that stretch? It came in a rematch with Pelé at World Free Fight Challenge 2. It was a controversial decision for Landi-Jons in a fight where Shlemenko broke both of his hands in the first round.

The two wins over Shlemenko were really the only landmark moments for Landi-Jons following his five-fight losing streak. Once considered among the most exciting fighters in the sport, Pelé bounced from promotion to promotion following the skid and went a rather unimpressive 6-6 through 12 fights, with losses to such notable names as Travis Lutter, Thales Leites, Eduardo Pamplona and Jake Ellenberger. His most recent fight, which came in November 2012, ended in a decision loss for the 40-year-old against Jevgeniy Mahteenko.

Whereas one Brazilian at Jungle Fight 5 was putting up one of his last key victories in a declining career, another was enjoying a steady rise and hoping to find success in a move up from featherweight to lightweight. That man was current UFC featherweight champion José Aldo. Aldo had debuted in 2004 as a 17-year-old and stormed through his first seven opponents. His game featured an intimidating striking attack that included the use of soccer kicks on numerous occasions to seal the victory.

Aldo’s opponent at Jungle Fight 5 was Luta Livre black belt Luciano Azevedo. Azevedo was a Shooto veteran who sat at 5-2 when he fought Aldo. The focus of Azevedo’s game was in taking his opponents to the mat and finishing them via submission. He already had four submission wins on his resume, plus a split decision victory over Rodrigo Damm.

Aldo was able to avoid takedowns in the first frame, although he may have been aided by the fight’s setting in a roped ring rather than a cage. At one point, he fell out of the ropes as Azevedo went for the takedown, forcing a restart from the referee and allowing Aldo to remain vertical. The second round was a different story, with Azevedo eventually scoring a double-leg and, after the two were reset on the ground in the center of the ring, passing Aldo’s guard into full mount. Aldo gave up his back and soon found himself defending against a rear-naked choke. At 3:37 of the round, the future UFC kingpin succumbed to the choke.

The loss remains the one and only defeat in Aldo’s career. He returned to featherweight in his next fight and scored unanimous decision wins over Thiago Meller, Fabio Mello and Shoji Maruyama to punch his ticket to the WEC. Upon entering the WEC in 2008, Aldo impressed with a string of knockout and TKO finishes of Alexandre Franca Nogueira, Jonathan Brookins, Rolando Perez, Chris Mickle, Cub Swanson and Mike Brown. In that stretch, Aldo earned “Knockout of the Night” honors in his fights with Perez, Swanson and Brown and captured the WEC featherweight crown from Brown. He defended the belt twice before the UFC absorbed the WEC and crowned him the UFC featherweight champ. With five successful defenses, Aldo continues his reign to this day and awaits a match-up with Ricardo Lamas at UFC 169 in February.

Azevedo followed up his win over Aldo with three more victories, including a decision win over Din Thomas. However, the Brazilian, who is now just 32 years old, fell on hard times upon making his Pride debut with a first-round TKO loss to Hayato “Mach” Sakurai. The loss to Sakurai marked the beginning of a 15-fight stretch in which Azevedo went just 7-7-1. The Renovacao Fight Team product has not fought since a 2011 bout versus Diego Braga Alves ended in a draw.

Although Aldo’s loss came in a lightweight bout, it is significant given the growing trend of superfight talks and Aldo’s own suggestion that he may compete at lightweight at some point. The 27-year-old was still a teenager when he suffered the loss, but his track record at lightweight comes into question given that less than stellar past result within the weight class.

Shlemenko and Aldo are certainly the most significant names from the Jungle Fight 5 lineup, but they do not comprise the only important fighters to have set foot in the ring that night.

Current UFC fighter and Team Tavares product Ivan “Batman” Jorge was just a 4-0 prospect when he claimed a decision victory over Andrius Hobaldo at the event. Alexandre Ferreira, who would make one appearance in the UFC in a losing effort against Vladimir Matyushenko, needed just 52 seconds to submit Julio Cezar Santana via a guillotine choke. UFC and WEC veteran Fredson Paixao secured a rear-naked choke on Miljan Djurasinovic to claim a submission win, and Strikeforce vet Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos scored a second-round knockout of Michal Materla, handing the future KSW mainstay the first loss of his career.

Although many of the fighters on this card have failed to find success at the highest levels of the sport and others, such as Batman, are still hoping their day will come, it’s the inclusion of Shlemenko and Aldo that makes this a truly significant event in MMA history. Losses are often cited as learning experiences, and the takeaway from this event for these two defeated future stars helped to mold them into the champions they are today.

Photo: Alexander Shlemenko (Keith Mills/Sherdog)