With Wednesday's announcement that Shane Carwin has re-injured his knee and pulled out of his heavyweight headliner with Roy Nelson at "The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale" on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas, UFC officials are left scrambling to find a replacement.
A variety of contenders will be targeted for the fight on short notice, some with a past history with Nelson, but none will be completely satisfying after seeing the two men coach separate teams over the course of 10 weeks.
Still, without tampering with existing matchups in the coming months, numerous compelling options exist to fill the vacancy left by Carwin's withdrawal.
Let's take a look at some of the options:
Josh Barnett - With nothing to gain and a fight with Dion Staring already booked for January, Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner Daniel Cormier is unlikely to accept the fight, which makes sense. Barnett, meanwhile, has nothing to lose. He was expected to compete on Strikeforce's final card in January, but with no opponent set in stone, this is Barnett's golden opportunity to gain bonus points with UFC president Dana White.
Mark Hunt - While Hunt has no notable past history with Nelson, the entertaining New Zealander is on a surprising three-fight winning streak. Stylistically, a clash between Hunt and Nelson is unlikely to disappoint. If Nelson has a hard time getting Hunt down, we could see him absorb some of the heaviest blows of his career.
Stefan Struve - The red-hot Dutchman is on an impressive four-fight winning streak with stoppages of all four opponents. Struve fell victim to a 39-second overhand right against Nelson when the two crossed paths in March 2010, so redemption would go a long way in pushing Struve up the heavyweight ladder.
Cheick Kongo - Another opponent who can bring out the best in Nelson, Kongo is coming off a unanimous decision win over Shawn Jordan at UFC 149. With dull performances in his recent outings with Jordan and Matt Mitrione, there will likely be hesitation about giving Kongo a main event billing. On the other hand, he struck gold with a classic come-from-behind knockout of Pat Barry when the two headlined a card last June.
Travis Browne - Fresh off a first-round TKO loss against Antonio Silva, Browne would benefit from another stern test in the form of Nelson. The Hawaiian Greg Jackson pupil tore his left hamstring in the fight against "Bigfoot," so his availability is a major question mark.
Stipe Miocic - Coming off a losing effort in a "Fight of the Night" performance against Struve this past September, a healthy Miocic would be a solid opponent for Nelson. The durable Ohio native possesses both a strong wrestling background and extensive boxing pedigree, but he may still be recovering from the first blemish off his professional career.
Andrei Arlovski - It's a long shot, but the former UFC heavyweight champion is unbeaten in his past four fights. His competition hasn't been of the highest caliber, but Arlovski seems to have found some rhythm since teaming up with Greg Jackson in New Mexico. Arlovski scored a second-round knockout over Nelson under the now-defunct EliteXC banner in October 2008 after a controversial standup by referee Jorge Ortiz. I'm sure Nelson would jump at the opportunity to exact revenge, particularly with evidence of the Belarusian's fading chin.