As of late, UFC has been booking short notice fights and last-minute replacements to keep the show going.
Joe Solecki was scheduled to face Austin Hubbard on June 20th in Las Vegas. However, the Contender Series alum took to social media to announce having to pull out of the fight due to circumstance “beyond his control.”
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I am beyond disappointed to announce that, due to reasons beyond my control, I have been forced to withdrawal from next week’s fight. I hopped in a fight camp at the end of March to be ready for a fight when it came up and was beyond prepared for the 20th. Unfortunately, it isn’t our plans that prevail sometimes. All I can do is recover, get back in the gym as soon as I am able to, and work harder to get back in the UFC octagon as soon as possible.
The lightweight division may be stacked, but a replacement has yet to be announced for Austin Hubbard. Since UFC is keen on new signings debuting the week of, we decided to make Sean Shelby’s job much easier.
Before MMA politics get in the way, take a look at the four regional fighters who could likely fill in on fight night and deserve the opportunity:
Rafa Garcia (12-0, Combate Lightweight Champ)
A nominee for The Scrap’s Regional Fighter of the Year, Garcia has won his last 2 fights by decision. But, that is not his typical track record. The undefeated fighter has a fancy for finishes, with 7 wins by submission on his resume. One of the few who were able to compete before the pandemic, Garcia has defended his Combate belt and is without a doubt ready for that step up in competition.
Garcia is dangerous, and has fared well against some experienced opponents. If the UFC needs a short notice opponent, look no further than Garcia. He definitely deserves his shot.
Anthony Romero (7-0, Ohio Combat League Lightweight Champ)
Romero recently captured the Ohio Combat League lightweight championship at the Arnold Sports Festival. Another who was able to fight prior to the pandemic, “The Genius” extended his win streak to 15-straight. Currently 7-0 and coming off a first-round knockout, Romero has shown a well-rounded skillset and a dedication to his craft. He has the ability to control the fight and win the decision, but as of late he is finding the finishing touch UFC likes.
Aside from his impressive streak, the young fighter is also a 3x Kickboxing National Champion Bronze Medal winner a Kickboxing Pan-Ams, BJJ Pan-Am Gold Medalist, a black belt in Taekwondo, and brown belt in BJJ. Canada has plenty of promising prospects, but Romero is at the top of the list.
Kenny Cross (10-3, Lights Out Lightweight Champ)
Cross is on a 4-fight win streak, all wins coming by KO/TKO. With a record of 10-3, he has the experience and the time in the cage to prepare him for the UFC.
Recently capturing the Light Out lightweight champion against a tough opponent, Cross is undoubtedly a future star and one who is ready for the step up in competition. What more does he have to do? Four consecutive finishes and never leaving it in the judges hands — I think that’s the recipe for Dana White’s future favorite fighter.
Joe Giannetti (9-2-1, TUF 27 Runner-up)
Giannetti has been asking for a call-up for quite some time, one has to think it’s right around the corner. After recently calling out a few opponents not named Austin Hubbard, a debut against the Team Elevation fighter might just be perfect dance partner for the TUF 27 runner-up.
Recently calling for his shot on Twitter, only time will tell. But true MMA fans knows the New England fighters is ready for the big leagues.