Color me puzzled.
In case you have not heard, the perpetually whiny Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had to withdraw from his scheduled bout with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua due to knee troubles. He is being replaced by, you guessed it, Thiago Silva.
Fresh off a suspension for trying to cover up steroid use and a highly publicized loss, Silva will be fighting a top-five fighter in the division. This ends up being a huge break for Silva, who still has serious knockout power but has not won a fight since 2009, when he beat Keith Jardine at UFC 102.
Since what turned out to be a top contender fight with Lyoto Machida at UFC 94 all the way back in January 2009, Silva is 1-3 (1). That said, a victory over Rua would rocket him into the top 10 of the division and could very well put him in the title picture.
Even though his new opponent remains one of the most technically skilled fighters in the division, Thiago Silva still has more than a puncher's chance of winning.
While Silva has to be excited about this, this must be a huge letdown for Rua, who is coming off a knockout victory over Forrest Griffin and the 2011 fight of the year that he shared with Dan Henderson. Rua has remained near the top of the division since beating Chuck Liddell at UFC 97 and has been a top ten light heavyweight for years now.
The oft-injured light heavyweight bested Lyoto Machida (twice, many would argue) to become the champion. Unfortunately, another tweak had him sidelined for nearly a year before he returned to a lopsided beat down from Jon Jones.
Despite that, Rua was actually possibly looking at a title rematch with Jones (assuming he beats the aforementioned Dan Henderson) later this year. Jones, meanwhile, has spent his time since UFC 129 defeating almost literally every light heavyweight of note since Chuck Liddell was champion.
While finishing Quinton Jackson (and the lack of another opponent) would have made a title shot for Rua almost a certainty, beating Silva does not help him towards this goal nearly as much.
Why Rua accepted this fight with so much risk attached remains a mystery. As does why the UFC would avoid replacing Quinton Jackson with a prospect like Phil Davis or Alexander Gustaffson (who beat Silva just a few weeks ago), a name-brand veteran like Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or even a Strikeforce import like Rafael Cavalcante or Gegard Mousasi
UFC 149 is not entirely fleshed out yet, so what spot this fight will take on the card is still up in the air. Regardless, look for this fight in July. At the very least, it will probably end in a knockout.