Longtime UFC light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado will move up a weight class to heavyweight, replacing an injured Junior dos Santos against Stipe Miocic in the main event at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale on May 31.
You didn't see that one coming, did you?
Following the news of dos Santos' injury, many fans and analysts tried to predict a replacement opponent for Miocic. After much consideration, the consensus was that the top 10 of the UFC's heavyweight division was ill prepared to produce a reasonable challenger on short notice.
These notions were confirmed today by Globo TV's Ivan Rupp, who announced that Maldonado would step up to replace the heavyweight striker dos Santos. The news was then picked up by MMA Sportsnet's Mike Johnston and MMAjunkie.com, each confirming the news.
Maldonado is not currently ranked in the UFC's top-15 rankings in the light heavyweight division, but he is coming off three straight decision victories, and his rock 'em, sock 'em style has made him a fan favorite throughout his UFC career.
While Maldonado may not pack the sheer power of dos Santos, his game, like Cigano's, is stand-up oriented, so Miocic should be able to make a few adjustments in training and adapt to his new foe.
Most notably, Maldonado is renowned for his body shots and his impenetrable chin, two areas which Miocic will look to defend and counter when the two square off at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 Finale.
Adding more intrigue to this shocking announcement, Miocic is currently riding a nice winning streak of his own.
The Ohio-based striker is 2-0 in his last two, soundly defeating Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga via unanimous decision.
These two victories earned Miocic a spot at No. 7 in the UFC's official rankings, and a win over Maldonado would continue this momentum and secure him a high-profile bout (like dos Santos) for his next trip to the UFC Octagon.
While the UFC saved faced this time, using Maldonado as a late replacement may showcase a glaring weakness of running so many fight cards so close to each other.
The heavyweight division was not equipped to produce a replacement, and the UFC had to dip into the light heavyweight class to find somebody for Miocic to fight on May 31. Even then, Maldonado is not a ranked 205-pound fighter, so the switch up, while fun from a fan's perspective, is not ideal for Miocic's career.
What do you make of the news? Are you stoked to see Maldonado move up to heavyweight, or do you wish the UFC had scrapped the bout altogether?