Instead of snatching a fighter who's already booked and then re-shuffling the deck, it seems the ideal solution is to bring someone off the bench for a smooth and easy replacement. Unfortunately, with such a high-profile name and a mere three weeks to prepare, finding an available light-heavy with the clout and cojones to challenge Evans is a tall order. Initially, Lyoto Machida, Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin were the consensus suggestions, but for the sake of conjecture, let's dig a little deeper into some auxiliary options.
I wonder if the UFC could sidestep the "business as usual" spiel and tap into the newly acquired Strikeforce roster? While the two obvious choices -- Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson -- both have bouts on the horizon, former champion Muhammed Lawal springs to mind.
"King Mo" was slated to face Roger Gracie on the Fedor vs. Henderson card, but Gracie has since withdrawn with an injury. Lawal fits the bill in every aspect. He has the crisp boxing, top-notch agility, and prestigious wrestling credentials to pose a genuine threat. He also exudes the machismo to mold this high-risk situation into a win/win scenario, he should be available and in decent fight-shape, and quite simply, he's an exciting showman that fans could rally behind.
Another intriguing thought is past title-holder Rafael Cavalcante. I've always felt "Fejiao" was one of the more under-appreciated 205-pounders in the game, and to my knowledge, he hasn't been allocated since losing the Strikeforce strap to Hendo in March. Cavalcante's technical clinch-game, stout takedown defense and feisty scrambling abilities proved to be on par in his upset of Lawal; an opponent with a style somewhat comparable to Evans. The Black House scrapper's length, footwork, and fully stocked arsenal is a formidable medley for anyone to tackle.
One more Strikeforce candidate and a few from the UFC's roster after the jump.
Suggesting the inexperienced Rhadi Ferguson (3-0) sounds silly at first, but this is an ATT-trained animal who competed as a Judoka in the 2004 Summer Olympics and specializes in Strength and Conditioning. He's also a black belt in BJJ, an unbelievable athlete, and an imposing physical specimen.
Ferguson made his MMA debut in August of 2010, crushing two opponents by TKO in the opening frame. He then set up shop with Strikeforce and hit a kneebar on John Richard for the Challengers 13 card. The man is an outright beast with a level of talent that his record doesn't reflect.
Cane is a stand-up mauler who only recently suffered the first "real" losses on his record, as the first was a DQ for an illegal knee versus James Irvin. The signature overhand left of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira felled the Armory fighter in the former's Octagon debut, then the nonpareil striking and rapid recovery of Cyrille Diabate toppled him for two consecutive defeats. "Banha" looked frightening and rejuvenated in his first-round blasting of Eliot Marshal to get back on track at UFC 128.
Sure, Brandon "The Truth" Vera has lost momentum, but let's not forget how effectively he fended off the takedowns of one Randy Couture. Vera has surprising wrestling skills, a slick ground game, and a lanky Muay Thai onslaught that can't be overlooked. The Thiago Silva blemish was eventually polished into a No Contest, but even though that was a sound defeat, were the two previous losses to Jon Jones and Randy Couture really that disappointing? I think not. Ingratiating himself to the Zuffa brass and stepping up for this fight could be a beneficial decision.
Matt Hamill should be a worthwhile candidate as well. Though Rashad might do everything just a little quicker and better than he does, he has the burly wrestling and heavy hands to make things competitive. Plus, he's a fan-fave, and I can imagine a good vs. evil theme arising to captivate the audience. I have nothing against Rashad, but I know I'd be cheering for "The Hammer" to pull off the upset.
Ryan Bader just succumbed to a Tito Ortiz guillotine and was medically suspended until July 24, so he's not the most likely option, but would still make for an intriguing opponent. His wrestling has been bulletproof to everyone not named Jon Jones, and his striking acumen floored me in the Little Nog fight. Again, two consecutive losses, the first of his career, is not the optimal point to experiment with extreme hazards, but it could pay off.
The last UFC light-heavyweight that I don't believe is targeted for an upcoming bout is Jason Brilz. Of course, he shocked everyone against Nogueira in a rousing display that many felt he should have won, and that opinion was prevalent in his split-decision loss to Eliot Marshal as well. He was shellacked by Vladimir Matyushenko in hist last outing at UFC 129, so the same theory of risk vs. reward applies to Brilz.
And ... I'm spent. Have I neglected any applicants that aren't otherwise accounted for?