As many of you know, the original co-main event for UFC 116 was slated to pit Wanderlei Silva against Yoshihiro Akiyama.
When Silva-Akiyama was still a go, the hype was overwhelming even though few could understand why.
Here's why. Though Akiyama had only one UFC fight to his name, he's a Japanese legend. And Wanderlei Silva... I need not say more.
Then Silva injured his ribs in training.
Who would take his place?
As quickly as Silva was forced to withdraw, that question was answered.
But this new fight couldn't possibly be as good as Silva-Akiyama, right?
With only three days left before UFC 116, this bout might have lost some hype, but it has the same excitement for me as the Silva-Akiyama dream fight.
Chris Leben, the new opponent, is neither Wanderlei nor Anderson on the feet, but he does have one thing that Wanderlei doesn't.
Leben has wrestling ability to go along with his Boxing and BJJ, something which could give Akiyama trouble on the ground if he hasn't trained for Leben utilizing such an asset.
On the feet, Leben could be giving up a few inches of reach or height, but he can still land blow after crippling blow.
Akiyama is no slouch at the stand-up, either.
This new middleweight fight doesn't detract from the rest of the UFC 116 card because the stylistic clash between Leben and Akiyama will be exciting.
It's also an "Ultimate Fighter" contestant, who has faced many credible opponents, against a Japanese legend and black-belt judoka.
I'd say Leben deserves at least a little bit of credit for taking Akiyama on short notice.
So the next question is, who has the greater disadvantage here?
Leben's already battle-worn from Aaron Simpson, and he's taking Akiyama on short notice, but on the other hand, Akiyama has only had about ten days to prepare for Leben, who has boxing, BJJ, and wrestling in his repertoire.
The opponent for Yoshihiro Akiyama has changed, but the excitement for this bout hasn't. If you ask me, it's increased now that Leben is in.
You'll see on July 3rd when Leben and Akiyama make some fireworks!