Junior dos Santos' first title defense as UFC heavyweight champion at UFC 146 is only seven weeks away. However, the Brazilian's opponent remains very much up in the air after his currently scheduled foe, Alistair Overeem, failed a prefight drug test.
Unless Overeem answers to the Nevada State Athletic Commission with a very good reason for his abnormally high testosterone levels, it seems likely the former Strikeforce champion will be removed from his title fight against Overeem.
With UFC president Dana White's announcement that neither Frank Mir nor Cain Velasquez will be removed from the UFC 146 co-main event, few options remain to replace Overeem against dos Santos in the event's feature fight.
If the UFC plans on replacing Overeem with a fighter who is coming off of a win, which would probably be the best option for avoiding an uproar from fans, the exclusion of Mir limits the list of potential substitutes to 12 UFC heavyweights. Of course, most of those heavyweights are nowhere near deserving of standing across the Octagon from dos Santos.
There has been a push from MMA fans for the UFC replace Overeem with either Mark Hunt or light heavyweight Dan Henderson. However, Hunt is three fights removed from a six-fight losing streak and a submission defeat against UFC castoff Sean McCorkle. Henderson, meanwhile, is a 41-year-old fighter who was flirting with the idea of competing at middleweight prior to Overeem's failed drug test.
While a fight between dos Santos and Hunt could turn into an exciting stand-out bout, a smart game plan by the Brazilian would result in a very quick and lopsided fight. Everyone loves an underdog, but Hunt simply isn't ready for an elite opponent like dos Santos.
Likewise, Henderson has the ability to put any fighter away with his right hand, but he would be much better served waiting for a title shot in the light heavyweight or middleweight divisions.
As an aging fighter who used to compete at 185 pounds, Henderson would have much difficulty dealing with a larger fighter who also possesses the speed that dos Santos does.
While Werdum isn't on an impressive winning streak and wouldn't be considered a prototypical title contender, this also isn't a typical situation for determining a division's top contender. In this instance, Werdum is the only legitimate option to replace Overeem against dos Santos.
Werdum has won six of his past eight fights, with his only losses during that time coming against none other than dos Santos and Overeem. The Brazilian is also coming off an impressive performance against Roy Nelson in his return to the UFC.
With White's proclamation that Mir will still fight Velasquez, Werdum is undoubtedly the highest-ranked UFC heavyweight coming off of a win and should replace Overeem if the Dutch fighter is unable to compete at UFC 146.
After three-and-a-half years, a rematch between dos Santos and Werdum would also be intriguing enough to maintain fan interest in this fight card.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, Follow Sean Smith on Twitter