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With Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva shifted to UFC 175 and its main event replacement, Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic, scrapped earlier this week because of an injury to "Cigano," Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) had few viable Heavyweight options to step up on just three weeks notice to headline The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" Finale.
So instead it found a game Brazilian Light Heavyweight to take on Miocic at Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 31, 2014: Fabio Maldonado.
"I just heard about it.... My manager Alex [Davis] called me and asked if I would take the fight, and I said ‘let's do this'.... I'm weighting 223 pounds now, so weight is not an issue. The issue is timing -- Miocic is an excellent fighter with a good wrestling and boxing skills. The ideal would be three more weeks of training to prepare myself, but I can't choose. I take the opportunities they offer me.... My last fight in Brazil before signing with the UFC was at heavyweight. I fought as a heavyweight some times in Brazil, but I'm way better physically today. I don't care about those things actually."
Despite winning three straight in the 205-pound division (Gian Villante, Joey Beltran and Roger Hollett) -- after dropping three in a row -- Maldonado is currently un-ranked in the Top 15. He recently called out Anthony Johnson after his big win over Phil Davis at UFC 172 last month, but it seems a more high-profile FOX Sports 1 television opportunity has emerged.
Maldonado last competed as a Heavyweight at "First Class Fight:" 4 in June 2010, scoring a 40-second knockout over Nelson Martins in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It's safe to assume that Miocic will present a tougher, more well-rounded, challenge in a match that is presumably (but not officially announced at this time) scheduled for five rounds.
Miocic, meanwhile, is in the midst of a two-fight win streak that includes big wins over division veterans Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 161 and UFC on FOX 10, respectively. In fact, in six Octagon appearances, the Croatian-American has just one loss, a technical knockout courtesy of Stefan Struve back in Sept. 2012, his only professional MMA loss.
To check out the latest TUF: "Brazil" 3 Finale fight card and rumors click here.