by Adam Lawman
After last night’s breaking news that Phil Davis had been forced out of the main event of UFC 133 with a knee injury, speculation ran rampant regarding whom would be the replacement to face Rashad Evans.
The first information that came out regarding the situation was that Tito Ortiz had been offered the UFC 133 main event versus Rashad Evans only to turn it down citing a risky turnaround for himself and so the ball ended up in Lyoto Machida’s court but no deal had been finalized.
Sherdog spoke with Machida’s wife whom has confirmed that “The Dragon” will be declining the bout based on a standard he holds regarding being prepared. Machida’s wife also states that the fact that a title shot could not be guaranteed for Machida, should he have proven victorious, was a decision point.
Now, it seems that Ortiz is possibly reconsidering the bout and may be trying to negotiate a worthy payday for such a risk of a quick turnaround for someone of his age and injury history. But don’t hold your breath for Ortiz vs Evans II to materialize because “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” seems confident in playing it smart and sitting this one out.
If Ortiz and Machida both end up forgoing the short notice bout then the UFC will be at a loss for any further credible light heavyweight replacements.
Using the SBNation/USAToday consensus MMA rankings, let’s go through and see who is and isn’t available and why:
- Jon Jones (Champion) – Originally scheduled to fight Evans for this event, Jones had to pull out for a little more downtime necessary to heal his hand, thus the UFC found Phil Davis to step in. Jones is now scheduled for his first title defense; a high profile fight at UFC 135 with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, his toughest test yet.
- Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – Rua is looking for a quick path back to his belt but he’s already booked for the UFC’s Rio card scheduled for August 27. Rua’s UFC 134 opponent is Forrest Griffin and is a rematch of their UFC 76 bout from 2007 where Griffin won the upset.
- Quinton Jackson – As stated above, he is set for the UFC 135 main event versus Jon Jones for the light heavyweight championship.
- Rashad Evans – N/A (He’s the one looking for an opponent)
- Lyoto Machida – Sherdog has confirmed with Mrs. Machida that Mr. Machida will not be the replacement.
- Forrest Griffin – Rua already has a bout with Griffin set for the UFC 134 co-main event which takes place just a few weeks after UFC 133.
- Ryan Bader – He could be a possibility since he didn’t pick up a lengthy suspension and will be cleared to resume training in a matter of days, but his star power has been damaged following his last two losses to Jones and Ortiz. Still, this might be something the UFC has to make happen if no one else calls back for the job.
- Dan Henderson – I’d love to see “Hendo” back in the UFC now to compete with current top dogs but he is signed to Strikeforce at least for his next fight that goes down at the end of July. Henderson meets Fedor Emelianenko on July 30 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
- Phil Davis – N/A (Davis has been scratched from event due to injury)
- Thiago Silva – Silva is still under the one-year suspension handed out from the NSAC otherwise a rematch of UFC 108 would be a good option.
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – Lil Nog fights on the UFC 133 main card already. Rogerio will be welcoming back Rich Franklin who returns from an injury he sustained by KO’ing Chuck Liddell.
- Gegard Mousasi – Mousasi is signed with Strikeforce but also has a bout signed with DREAM for their next event where he will be defending his DREAM light heavyweight title.
- Rich Franklin – As previously mentioned, Franklin makes his return against Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 133.
- Rafael Cavalcante – Strikeforce
- Muhammed Lawal – Strikeforce
- Matt Hamill – He should be able to go if needed however he just lost decisively to “Rampage” whom in turn lost to Evans.
You see, the UFC doesn’t have many options if Machida and Ortiz both were to pass.
Honestly, I wouldn’t doubt them asking Chael Sonnen to fight at 205 pounds for his UFC comeback. It would most surely net the UFC a huge increase in expected pay per view buys which should earn Sonnen a huge payday for his short notice generosity. Plus, it would be a bigger fight than Sonnen’s scheduled scrap with Stann at UFC 136. But that’s all a little farfetched.
As of now it looks like Machida and Ortiz would be the best options with Bader and Hamill as fall backs possibly. Other than that, Dana White and Joe Silva may have to get creative.