Jeremy Stephens (14-4) will take on Gleison Tibau (16-6) -- not The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8 lightweight winner, Efrain Escudero (11-0), as originally planned -- at UFC Fight Night 18 from the Sommet Center in Nashville, Tenn., on April 1.
Escudero was forced to withdraw from the 155-pound contest because of a rib injury sustained this week while training for the showdown. Tibau has agreed to step in on three weeks notice and fill in for the collegiate wrestling standout.
The Brazilian is fresh off a submission victory over Rich Clementi at UFC Fight Night 17 just last month in a must-win situation -- he was riding a back-to-back losses, which is always precarious in the land of the UFC.
That was uncharted territory for the American Top Team (ATT) product — he won three of his first four fights inside the Octagon. And the only loss during that stretch was to Nick Diaz at UFC 65: "Bad Intentions" back in November 2006.
But Tibau recovered after dropping dropped consecutive bouts to perennial division threats Tyson Griffin and Joe Stevenson and is now out to make in two in a row in just as many months.
"Lil Heathen" is no stranger to last minute replacements -- he filled in for his mentor, Hermes Franca, when he was scratched from a fight against Joe Lauzon at UFC Fight Night 17. The heavy-handed fighter out of Iowa went on to lost the fight via second round submission (armbar).
Stephens earned "Knockout of the Night" at UFC 91: "Couture vs. Lesnar" after sending Rafael dos Anjos back to Brazil with a thundering upper cut that he threw from what appeared to be the center of the cage.
It was among the most devastating finishes of 2008.
Stephens now has six career fights inside the Octagon, winning three (Dos Anjos, Cole Miller and Diego Saraiva) contests and losing (Spencer Fisher, Din Thomas and Lauzon) the others.
He’d get a nice bump with a win over a name like Tibau, but he’ll need to do his best to stay upright for that to happen.
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