The UFC had a classic stricking vs grappling matchup as a main event for it’s first visit in Chile. South American prospect and #10 ranked welterweight contender Santiago ‘Gente Boa’ Ponzinibbio was slated to fight #7 ranked Kamaru ‘the Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman in a pivotal matchup with title implications.
The card was however struck with unfortunate turn of events as it lost both it’s main event and co-main event on the same day itself. The light heavyweight co-main event between former light heavyweight champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and former light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Ozdemir was scrapped due to Ozdemir having visa issues. However, the even more significant blow was the pulling out of native Santiago Ponzinibbio due to an injury. A number of replacements were considered to fight Usman, considering Usman’s condition that he’ll fight only ranked fighters. The frontrunner to replace Santiago Ponzinibbio is none other than former middleweight and welterweights title challenger, the BJJ wizard Demaian Maia.(via Twitter):
Frontrunner to fight Kamaru Usman on 5/19 is Demian Maia, sources confirm. Not 100% finalized but barring a last minute stumbling block that will be the fight.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 26, 2018
#13 ranked welterweight Alex Oliveira was first discussed as the replacement. Oliveira is fresh off his victory against former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. However, that was a short notice fight and hence there was some resistance in the fight being materialized. (via Twitter):
One option discussed for Usman was Cowboy Oliveira, who won last week versus Carlos Condit, but I was told there’s resistance to the offer due to the quick turnaround. Not many available top 15 options at the moment.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) April 22, 2018
Lightweight Paul ‘the Irish Dragon’ Felder then offered to step in to fight Usman. However, according to the UFC, the fight does not make any sense.(via Twitter):
— Ali Abdelaziz (@AliAbdelaziz00) April 24, 2018
The fight between Usman and Maia was a long time coming as Usman called out Maia after his victory against Warlley Alves in November 2016.
Usman (12-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) is on a seven fight win streak and would like to extend this streak leading up to a title shot. Maia (25-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) on the other hand is on a two-fight losing streak in his title shot against UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and contender Colby Covington. Maia would like to return back to winning ways.