Light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado is in the midst of an impressive three-fight win streak and now the Brazilian slugger is ready for a major test in the UFC heavyweight division. Maldonado will step in as an injury replacement for Junior dos Santos to face Stipe Miocic in the main event of the TUF Brazil 3 finale.
Officials were left scrambling to find a suitable replacement for the May 31 headliner in Sao Paulo after JDS was forced off the card with a broken hand. Maldonado is as game as they come and will make the move up in weight classes to face the surging Miocic.
Maldonado is 4-3 during his UFC tenure and most recently put on a striking clinic in earning a unanimous decision victory over Gian Villante at Fight Night 38 in Brazil. He’s been involved in a number of fan-friendly fights with his boxing skills and granite chin making him must-see TV. Maldonado’s confidence level has soared thanks to his winning ways and he’s showing plenty of bravado in facing the no. 7-ranked Miocic. He’s really in a no-lose situation and felt getting a chance to headline an event on his home soil was worth the risk.
Miocic will still have to enter hostile territory to square off against a Brazilian, but it has to be disappointing to miss out on a prime opportunity against “Cigano.” He’s 11-1 in his career and has looked solid in back-to-back decision victories over Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.
He’s a very athletic heavyweight with strong boxing and grappling skills and good lateral movement. Facing Maldonado will be a good test for Miocic in the striking department, but a victory won’t take his career to the next level the way a win over the former champion would have.
In the end, matchmakers were left with very few options to find a suitable replacement to face a fighter of Miocic’s abilities on such short notice. The fact that the ultra-tough Maldonado has answered the bell should come as no surprise.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports