The development came quietly in a Monday press release officially announcing UFC 122 in Oberhausen, Germany.
"Both Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami are one win away from a shot at the UFC middleweight title and are coming to Germany with a great deal to win and lose," UFC managing director of international development Marshall Zelaznik said in the release.
The UFC had planned to give Chael Sonnen an immediate rematch following his strong showing against champion Anderson Silva at UFC 117, but given Sonnen's current problems with the California state athletic commission, his place at the front of the line seems likely to be overtaken by the Belfort-Okami winner. Sonnen reportedly failed a UFC 117 drug test, though the California state athletic commission has yet to officially release their results. A positive test carries possible penalties of a one-year suspension along with a monetary fine.
Silva was diagnosed with a cracked rib shortly after the Sonnen fight and was expected to be ready to fight in February or March of 2011. If Sonnen manages to clear his name, he'll likely get the nod, but if not, with the Belfort-Okami bout scheduled for November, the champion's return timeline should not be affected much as the UFC goes to Plan B.