Courtesy of WatchKalibRun.com
When the UFC announced a trip to Abu Dhabi, it came along with an announcement that government-owned Flash Entertainment had purchased 10 percent of the organization. Putting on a big-time event in the back yard of their new business partners was absolutely vital, and the Zuffa boys planned to deliver a war between champion Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort.
Belfort had previously won the UFC 12 Heavyweight tournament and was a former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion to boot. Riding a five-fight winning streak that was spear-headed by knockouts over Rich Franklin and Matt Lindland, Belfort would have been an excellent challenge for The Spider.
When Belfort had to withdraw from the event due to injury, it was assumed that number-one contender Chael Sonnen would be his replacement. However, Sonnen was still recovering injuries sustained in his title eliminator against Nate Marquardt and would be unavailable on such a quick turnaround.
Submission specialist Demian Maia was recently successful against Dan Miller at UFC 109, and since he had recently defeated Sonnen, he was deemed the next-best option. Fans were not convinced of Maia's worthiness, as he had suffered a 21 second knockout back at UFC 102.
Bleacher Report's own Brian Oswald summed up the feeling of fans when he reported that Maia had been tapped as a replacement contender.
Maia looked game to stand and strike with Miller last week, wanting to showcase his improved striking. But it's hard to imagine that the man who was flattened by Marquardt at UFC 102 in less than 30 seconds will want anything to do with the stand-up of Silva.
Did Maia's Abu Dhabi connection have something to do with his receipt of a title shot? Possibly. But it is the only time in recent memory that someone outside of the division's top five would receive a UFC title shot.