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 Feb. 9, 2007, and the location was Cowboys Atlanta in Kennesaw, Ga. It was time for International Sport Combat Federation: Invasion.

Every fighter takes a different path to the top. Some struggle for years, then suddenly manage to put it all together. Others face occasional setbacks on a steady climb to the top of the mountain. There’s hardly an example of this that’s more perfect than the 2007 battle between Matt Brown and Douglas Lima.

Brown was 26 years old at the time. His career was already off to an up-and-down start—he was 5-3 and had yet to string together more than two consecutive wins. “The Immortal” had debuted in 2005 and won his first two fights, but then he dropped a unanimous decision to Pete Spratt. He rebounded with another win, then lost back-to-back fights to Mikey Gomez and Chris Liguori. He bounced back with two more wins and sought to achieve his first three-fight winning streak when he locked horns with Lima.

Lima was still a teenager. The 19-year-old had launched his pro career the year prior and already had five first-round stoppage wins to his name. He was the undefeated prospect facing a man whose 5-3 mark didn’t scream big things for the future.

In the dimly lit cage, the two men traded punches on the feet and knees from the clinch in the opening two minutes of the fight, before Lima scored a takedown. Though Brown’s submission defense has been suspect throughout his career, he was able to mostly neutralize Lima. Brown threatened with an armbar attempt that created enough separation to allow him to escape back to his feet. They continued their striking exchange until Brown clinched and Lima committed to a guillotine choke, which allowed Brown to gain top position on the mat and rain down a barrage of ground-and-pound. The Ohio native allowed Lima to get back to his feet, and the two continued to trade punches and kicks. Lima ended up on his back again as the round drew to a close, and Brown was able to score with some additional ground-and-pound.

Brown shot out of his corner to open the second stanza with a flying knee and the two welterweights resumed their striking battle. Lima eventually shot for a takedown and didn’t relent until Brown was on the mat. Brown, again forced to defend from the bottom, attacked Lima’s right arm for a kimura, but he couldn’t lock it in. Lima continued to hold top position inside Brown’s guard, but Brown scored with a number of punches and elbows from the bottom. Lima stood up, then dropped back into Brown’s guard. Brown attacked Lima’s right arm again, leading to a sweep. Punches and elbows followed, then Brown transitioned to mount. Lima covered up as Brown poured on with rights and lefts, but the Brazilian did nothing to escape the position or fight back. The referee finally stepped in to call an end to the contest. Brown had sealed up the second-round TKO victory and captured the ISCF East Coast welterweight title.

Brown’s career continued its rocky course after that fight. He lost three of his next four, all by submission. Despite an unimpressive 7-6 mark, Brown was able to secure a spot in the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 7 in 2008. He fought his way into the TUF 7 house with a TKO victory over Josh Hall, and advanced past the preliminary round with a knockout of Jeremy May. In the quarterfinals, Brown ran into eventual TUF winner Amir Sadollah and succumbed to a triangle choke submission. His performances were enough to earn him an invite to compete at the Finale event, where he defeated Matt Arroyo. Brown continued his roller-coaster ride with a loss to Dong Hyun Kim, three straight wins, three straight losses, another win and another loss. In 2012, with his Octagon record standing at 5-5, things finally clicked for Brown. He started winning, and he hasn’t stopped since. His current streak of six victories, which includes a unanimous decision over Stephen Thompson and knockouts of Mike Swick and Mike Pyle, is double the length of his previous best streak. Brown is now a contender with an 11-5 career UFC record, and he’ll seek to further his campaign for a title bid on May 10 when he fights Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 40.

Lima’s young career was just getting started. He may have lost to Brown, but he came back stronger. The next six bouts for Lima resulted in six stoppage victories, including five more first-round finishes. He captured the American Fight League title along the way, but lost it to fellow future Bellator competitor Brent Weedman. The loss to Weedman marked the start of the worst patch in Lima’s career, in which he lost three out of four fights between May 2008 and June 2009. He recovered with a stretch of six victories and a MFC welterweight title reign before entering Bellator. The Brazilian competed in the season-five and season-eight welterweight tournaments, taking top honors on both occasions. He has suffered one loss in the Bellator cage, but it came in a title bid against dominant wrestler Ben Askren. Lima’s overall record in Bellator stands at 8-1, and the American Top Team Atlanta product recently captured the promotion’s welterweight crown with a second-round TKO victory over Rick Hawn.

Two very different paths, but both men now reside in the upper echelons of the welterweight division. Lima reigns supreme over the weight class in Bellator, but he has yet to set foot inside the Octagon. Brown, meanwhile, is enjoying the best run of his life, and he may even realize a dream that seemed all too impossible in 2007: he might get a chance to challenge for UFC gold in the near future.

Brown and Lima certainly stand as the most successful fighters to grace the cage on that February evening in Cowboys Atlanta, but they weren’t the only ones to go on to get their taste of the big show. In fact, there were several future UFC fighters and even a future WEC champion on the lineup.

That future champ was Brian Bowles. The Georgia native had already captured wins in two appearances under the Wild Bill’s Fight Night banner. Standing across from him was a much less successful two-fight veteran, Shane Weinischke. Weinischke was in the midst of a five-fight losing streak to start his career, and Bowles handed him loss No. 3 of that streak with a rear-naked choke at the 1:38 mark of the opening round. Weinischke, whose most recent fight took place in 2013, is now 4-9 as a pro.

The victory for Bowles was enough to punch his ticket to the WEC. He made his debut on the blue mat in his very next fight, which came just four months after his win over Weinischke. Bowles topped Charlie Valencia and reeled off three more wins before becoming only the second man to defeat Miguel Torres. The victory over Torres gave Bowles the WEC belt, but he turned around and relinquished it to Dominick Cruz in his first title defense. Bowles then transitioned to the UFC’s Octagon, making his UFC debut just over four years after his fight at ISCF Invasion. The former WEC bantamweight kingpin has gone 2-2 inside the Octagon, but he was slapped with a fine and a nine-month suspension after his UFC 160 drug test revealed an unusually high testosterone level.

ISCF Invasion also featured the pro debut of future UFC heavyweight Todd Duffee. Duffee was 21 years old at the time, and he was set to clash with Jonathan Spears, a fighter who already held an ugly 2-8 mark as a pro. (Interesting side note: Spears, a heavyweight riding the upper limit of the 265-pound weight class, lost his pro debut to Spencer Fisher, who competed in the UFC as a lightweight.) Needless to say, Duffee had little trouble steamrolling Spears. In fact, it took all of 15 seconds.

Duffee had the first of what would turn out to be a series of five knockout wins prior to his UFC debut. Approximately two and a half years after his first pro victory, Duffee entered the Octagon with a stunning seven-second finish of Tim Hague. He lost his next fight to Mike Russow after dominating much of the contest. He departed the UFC and suffered a 19-second knockout loss to Alistair Overeem. Duffee struggled with injuries that kept him out of action for more than a year, but he returned in 2012 with another quick knockout and returned to the UFC, where he scored a TKO victory over Philip De Fries. Duffee’s health issues continue to haunt him, though. He was diagnosed with Parsonage-Turner Syndrome, a rare disorder with symptoms including shoulder pain, motor weakness and numbness. He remains on the shelf while recovering from the disorder, but he’s hopeful for a return by 2015 at latest.

The event marked the second pro fight for future The Ultimate Fighter 13 competitor Clay Harvison. Harvison already had one win under his belt, and he picked up a second when he defeated Will Baggett by way of a second-round TKO. Baggett never fought again, but Harvison went on to compile an 8-2 mark and entered the TUF house. He made it as far as the quarterfinals before losing to Ramsey Nijem. Harvison was invited back for the Finale event and eked out a split verdict over Justin Edwards, but his success ended there. After losses in his next two UFC bouts, Harvison was released by the promotion. He has gone 2-1 since his release and fought once in the Bellator cage, but he has been inactive since July 2013.

The Ultimate Fighter 8 cast member Shane Primm was still competing as an amateur when he entered the ISCF cage. Primm picked up a first-round TKO victory over Anthony Newton. Primm turned pro in his next outing and scored a disqualification win over Tom Lawlor. His next stop was UFC’s reality series. He made it into the house with a first-round submission of Sean O’Connell, but he lost via submission to Eliot Marshall in the elimination round. Primm received a second chance at the TUF 8 Finale, but he was submitted by Krzysztof Soszynski and the UFC showed him the doors. Primm went just 4-4 after his brief stint in the UFC. He has not fought since 2010.

Rounding out the contingent of future UFC fighters, Nissen Osterneck appeared on the ISCF card in his second pro bout. The undefeated Osterneck met Franz Mendez, a 3-5 fighter, at the event. Osterneck emerged with a second-round submission win and followed it up with three more victories to punch his ticket to the WEC. He lost to Jake Rosholt in his lone appearance on the blue mat, but he soon found himself on the UFC roster when Zuffa moved the WEC middleweights to the UFC. Osterneck lost to Jorge Rivera in his lone Octagon appearance. Following his release, Osterneck notched six wins in seven outings. He has only fought once since 2010, and he has been inactive since a 2012 win over current TUF cast member Hector Urbina.

The ISCF Invasion show also hosted a pair of fighters who have yet to see the inside of the Octagon.

One of those fighters, Micah Miller, could take inspiration from Brown. Like the UFC welterweight contender, Miller has had his ups and downs. He was undefeated through seven fights, with six wins and a no-contest, when he squared off with Josh Kukuk, a debuting fighter. Miller scored a second-round TKO and moved on to the WEC, where he went 2-2 over two separate stints. He has also made appearances with Dream, the XFC and Tachi Palace Fights, but since his first WEC loss to Cub Swanson, Miller has failed to extend a winning streak beyond three fights.

The other fighter is Mike Corey. Corey was 5-1 at the time, and his only loss had come against Swanson at a King of the Cage event in 2005. Corey needed just 87 seconds to submit Greg LaJoye, an 0-1 fighter who would go on to post a career mark of 2-7. Corey’s next appearance came in the IFL, where he dropped a split verdict to Shad Lierley. He reeled off wins in his next five fights. He joined Bellator in 2011 and went 1-1-1 in his three appearances with the promotion between 2011 and 2012. The 30-year-old fighter returned to action in 2014 under the World Series of Fighting banner, where he picked up a win over Shane Kruchten.

The path to the top is full of struggles. Now, Matt Brown and Douglas Lima can look back at their 2007 fight as just one step on the long road to success. With its inclusion of these two stars, as well as a number of other future UFC fighters, ISCF Invasion stands as a significant event in the history of MMA.