After having what some analysts have called the best card of all time in UFC 217, the UFC has experienced a few major changes to their upcoming main events.
UFC 218 and 219 each lost a competitor from their headliner, as both Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz pulled out due to injuries. UFC Fight Night 122 also lost its scheduled bout, though the reason for this change doesn’t involve a fighter being hurt.
Former UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva has been flagged for an anti-doping violation. As a result, he’s been pulled from the Shanghai headliner against hard-hitting contender Kelvin Gastelum.
This marks the second time USADA testing has affected Silva. The first time was after UFC 183 in early 2015 when he scored a unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz. The bout was later overturned to a “no contest” after Silva tested positive for drostanolone and androsterone.
The once-dominant fighter is 1-4-1 in his last half-dozen octagon performances, with his last win being a close decision victory over Derek Brunson back at UFC 208 in February.
Gastelum is 13-3-1 in his professional MMA career, scoring wins over the likes of former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and high-ranking contender Tim Kennedy. He also scored a TKO victory over former champion and UFC veteran Vitor Belfort, though the result was overturned to a “no contest” after Gastelum tested positive for marijuana.
Gastelum’s last bout saw him submitted by former middleweight champion Chris Weidman after posting an impressive performance in the earlier rounds. Though Gastelum has fought at both welterweight and middleweight, a history of weight-cutting issues likely resulted in him sticking with the higher of the two.
Shanghai will still get a high-level main event, thanks to a man who volunteered to step up less than a month after losing his championship at UFC 217.
Michael Bisping will replace Silva in the headliner, and he’s currently listed as a +120 underdog. Bisping is no stranger to going against the odds. When he captured the middleweight title against Luke Rockhold, it was one of the greatest underdog tales in the sport’s history.
Bisping had already been defeated by Rockhold once, but volunteered to step in and save the main event after Rockhold’s original opponent (Chris Weidman) pulled out due to injury. Bisping fought the fight of his life, using crisp counter-striking to topple Rockhold in the first round and win UFC gold for the first time in his long and illustrious career.
Bisping fell short in his title defense against the returning Georges St.-Pierre at the Madison Square Garden. But despite being choked unconscious in the third round, he seems content to step in against one of the hardest hitters at 170 and 185.
Few fighters in UFC history have been willing to take big fights on short notice, but it has been shown to pay off in some cases. Though Bisping may not have a full training camp to prepare for his opponent, this has never stopped him before.