James Irvin will return from a nine-month suspension at UFC 98, which will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 23, and shed 20 pounds in the process to compete at middleweight for the first time ever.
MMAmania.com can confirm that "The Sandman" will challenge Drew McFedries, setting up a hard-hitting 185-pound match up.
Irvin tested positive for Methadone and Oxymorphone after his first round technical knockout loss to Anderson Silva at UFC Fight Night 14 on July 19. "The Sandman" — who was nursing a broken foot just weeks before accepting the bout — claims that he used the banned substances to mask the pain associated with the injury.
He has a split record (4-4) in eight fights for the promotion.
Before the loss to Silva, Irvin rebounded from an injury-riddled and bizarre 2007 fight campaign, during which he blew out his knee in a loss to Thiago Silva and was knocked silly courtesy of an errant Luis Arthur Cane knee that resulted in a disqualification win, to knockout Houston Alexander in record time at UFC Fight Night 13 this April.
But the momentum was cut short once again in 2008. And he'll have to try get it going in 2009 against the Miletich-trained fighter.
McFedries has also had a rollercoaster career inside the Octagon, winning every other fight and being unable to string together consecutive wins in six attempts with the promotion.
That is until he locked horns with Thales Leites on short notice at UFC 90: "Silva vs. Cote" back in October 2008. "Massacre" dropped his second consecutive bout courtesy of a first round submission (rear naked choke). He lost to Mike Massenzio via submission (kimura) at UFC Fight Night 15 in Omaha, Neb., on September 17, before the loss to the Brazilian.
In short, he needs a win bad. The good news for him is that his stand up style matches up better with a power puncher like Irvin. Should be a solid scrap.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more on UFC 98.