Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Alistair Overeem is not going to be fighting Junior dos Santos at UFC 146. You can pretty much bet the house on that, after Overeem's drug sample returned a testosterone-to epitestosterone ratio of more than 10:1, far above the Nevada state athletic commission's 6:1 cutoff. The next steps are testing the "B" sample, and a carbon isotope ratio test, which will determine if the testosterone in his body is naturally produced or synthetic.
The chances of either of those tests exonerating him are fairly miniscule, but that almost doesn't matter. Why? With seven weeks until the UFC 146 main event, the promotion can't wait around for the results. Tickets are already on sale, so they have to move on and salvage the event.
That means that someone else is about to receive a major opportunity. But who?
Here's a few possible scenarios. Some are remote, so consider yourself warned.
The Likely Pick: Frank Mir
Mir is nearly a lock to get the spot and face Dos Santos. He's coming off three straight wins, and the most recent one, a technical submission over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, is fresh enough in the minds of most to make him an interesting challenger. Not surprisingly, his camp started campaigning for the spot almost immediately. Within 90 minutes of NSAC executive director Keith Kizer revealing the test results, Mir's PR team had put out a statement to media saying he'd be "excited" to replace Overeem. As it stands, he's probably the best option.
The Darkhorse: Fabricio Werdum
Right now, Werdum is scheduled to fight in June. If he could be ready in time, he might be the most interesting style matchup. For one, he's greatly improved his striking, so he's not going to get steamrolled if the fight stays standing. For another, his ground skills are not to be trifled with. Finally, the UFC is quite intent on growing the Brazilian market. Even though UFC 146 is taking place in Las Vegas, could you imagine the interest it will generate in Rio and beyond? It's certainly worth a thought.
Unlikely: Cain Velasquez
A Velasquez-dos Santos fight would be a rematch of their UFC on FOX bout that was disastrous for the former champ. Unfortunately, he hasn't fought since, so he hasn't gained any momentum and there wasn't exactly an outcry for a rematch after he lost in just 64 seconds the first time around. Still, Velasquez has probably earned enough respect from fans over the years that he wouldn't be dismissed as a viable contender.
There are a couple things working in Hunt's favor here For one, he's already on the UFC 146 card. Of course, that doesn't distinguish him from Mir or Velasquez. But you know what does? His style. Hunt basically ensures that the fight will be a slugfest between the big boys, and that's never a bad thing when it comes to fan satisfaction. On the other hand, he's not nearly well known enough to headline a major event, and his 8-7 career record isn't exactly going to send people scrambling to plunk down $55 on pay-per-view. At least you can play up the "Rocky" angle with him.
Josh Barnett or Daniel Cormier
Yes, I know these guys are scheduled to fight each other in Strikeforce on May 19, just one week before UFC 146. I know the fight has been delayed long enough. But injuries happen. What if one guy has been hiding an injury that we aren't aware of? Then what do you do with the other guy? Have him wait forever? More to the point, Dana White can do whatever he wants. If he decides Barnett or Cormier are coming over to fight dos Santos, that's that. Barnett would obviously be the more intriguing possibility because of his history with the UFC and Dana White, but Cormier's no slouch. Too bad there's no chance of it happening.
Speaking of impossible… Yes, we're talking Mega-Millions odds here, but think about the setting. Think about all of the back-and-forth sniping that's gone on between the UFC and Emelianenko's management group over the years. Think about all the tension that would be in the building. You're telling me that wouldn't be a wildly entertaining scene? You're telling me you wouldn't want to watch that madness? Obviously, White has said there's no chance of Emelianenko ever fighting in the UFC, but imagine if he actually changed his mind and offered him one final short-notice, take-it-or-leave-it opportunity?
Of this group, only the top three are likely to be considered, for obvious reasons. Mir, however, makes the most sense. He's already on the card, he's the first one to step up and volunteer for the spot, and unlike Velasquez, he wasn't on the wrong end of a disastrous knockout loss to dos Santos. Bottom line: Overeem out, Mir in.
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