‘Bigfoot’ replaces Frank Mir to face former heavyweight champ
After Frank Mir was moved out of the co-main event spot against fellow former champ Cain Velasquez and into a title fight with dos Santos, Velasquez was in need of a new opponent. That opponent, as UFC president Dana White announced this week, will be Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. The fight will be the co-main event of the promotion’s Memorial Day weekend card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 26.
Though the Mir-Velasquez fight was to be a top contenders bout with the winner moving into a title shot with the dos Santos-Overeem winner, it is not known whether or not Velasquez-Silva will serve the same purpose.
Velasquez (9-1, 7-1 UFC) won the heavyweight title against Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 in October 2010. But after more than a year off due to injuries, he lost the belt to dos Santos at the first UFC on Fox event in November. It was the first loss of his career after starting 9-0 with eight knockouts, including three Knockout of the Night bonus awards.
Velasquez was a two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State alongside current UFC fighters Ryan Bader and C.B. Dollaway. In the run-up to his title win over Lesnar, Velasquez had stoppage wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Ben Rothwell, plus a decision victory over Cheick Kongo – the only time he’s been taken the distance.
Silva (16-3) will be making his UFC debut after a five-fight run in Strikeforce, where he went 3-2. Most notably, Silva stopped the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in February 2011 in the opening round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix tournament, earning a doctor’s stoppage after two rounds in one of the year’s biggest upsets. That win was the third straight for “Bigfoot” in the promotion after wins over former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle.
But in the semifinals of the heavyweight tournament in September, Silva faced alternate Daniel Cormier, who was stepping in for Overeem, who had been pulled from the tournament with an injury, then released from the promotion as its heavyweight champion. In the first round, Cormier dropped Silva, who had a big height and reach advantage, and finished him with strikes on the ground. In January, Silva announced that he had signed a contract with the UFC, which has slowly been bringing over Strikeforce’s heavyweight fighters in anticipation of dissolving the weight class in that promotion.
The genesis of the UFC 146 main card switches is from Overeem running afoul of the Nevada State Athletic Commission earlier this month when it was revealed a pre-fight drug test he took tested positive for elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone levels. Overeem on Friday was removed from the card by White, who previously had said that regardless of what might happen for an opponent for dos Santos, the Velasquez vs. Mir fight would remain on the card. Overeem was scheduled to appear in front of the NSAC on Tuesday and is expected to request a continuance in his case. In a statement released yesterday, Overeem said his elevated T/E ratio was due to a doctor-prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. His tested levels were in excess of 10:1, according to the NSAC, and have been reported to be 14:1. The NSAC’s maximum standard is 6:1. Other state commissions have a standard of 4:1. The average male has a T/E ratio of 1:1.
Along with the all-heavyweight main card, UFC 146 features a featherweight fight between TUF 14 winner Diego Brandao and Darren Elkins; a middleweight bout between Jason “Mayhem” Miller and C.B. Dollaway; a welterweight bout between Dan Hardy and Duane Ludwig; lightweight fights between Paul Sass and Jacob Volkmann and Edson Barboza and Evan Dunham; and former WEC featherweight champ Mike Brown vs. Daniel Pineda.