MMA Mania reports tonight via Wisconsin Combat Sports that former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk (33-4-1, 6-4 UFC) will return to action on January 2nd in Las Vegas against Brazilian grappler Rafaello "Tractor" Oliveira (9-2, 0-1 UFC) on the UFC 108 card. Sherk confirmed the fight himself in an interview with WCS:
"I’m fighting January 2 against Rafaello Oliveira," said Sherk. "I haven’t studied him yet, but I know he has fought my training partner Nick Lentz in Dallas. Lentz beat him, and he’s been able to give me some good advice on him."
As Sherk mentions, his Minnesota Martial Arts teammate Lentz defeated Oliveira soundly at UFC 103, even handling the BJJ black belt pretty effectively on the ground where many thought Oliveira would have the advantage. Considering that Sherk is far more experienced and arguably possesses far more natural skill than Lentz, it appears that Joe Silva is setting Sherk up to get back into contention in the lightweight division after his upset loss to Frankie Edgar back in May. The Muscle Shark has been out of action since, although he was scheduled to fight Gleison Tibau at UFC 103, with a separated shoulder forcing him out of that fight. Whether Sherk decides to finally go back to his standout wrestling to control Oliveira on the ground as Lentz did, or chooses to continue with his ill-advised kickboxing experiment, he will clearly be the heavy favorite.
Oliveira can't be discounted though, as his ground skills certainly are formidable, but his wins have come only against lesser competition. A training partner of BJ Penns, Oliveira will probably look to catch Sherk with a submission off his back, but the Muscle Shark has never been submitted in 38 career fights, so "Tractor's" work is certainly cut out for him.
UFC 108 card:
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez
Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva
Carlos Condit vs. Paul Daley*
Tyson Griffin vs. Jim Miller*
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Junior Dos Santos*
Joe Lauzon vs. Sam Stout*
Martin Kampmann vs. Rory Markham*
Sean Sherk vs. Rafaello Oliveira*
Cole Miller vs. Dan Lauzon*
Jake Ellenberger vs. Mike Pyle*
Mark Munoz vs. Ryan Jensen*
* not yet officially announced