The situation has changed for Carlos Ulberg at UFC 303.

After booking his return to the octagon on short notice against No 3-ranked light heavyweight Jamahal Hill at the glamour event in Las Vegas this month, Ulberg has had a late change in opponent with Hill out of the fight due to a knee injury.

Ulberg, ranked No 11, will instead clash with No 10-ranked Anthony Smith in one of two changes to the card.

The bout was initially scheduled as the co-main event with Conor McGregor’s return against Michael Chandler booked in the headline spot.

However, McGregor was also forced to withdraw from the event due to injury and Chandler will no longer be fighting on the card. Instead, the light heavyweight championship will go on the line with Alex Periera taking on former champion Jiri Prochazka in the main event.

The new co-main event is a featherweight bout between Brian Ortega and Diego Lopes, with Ulberg’s bout against Smith the third-to-last fight on the card. The new make-up of the card was confirmed by UFC boss Dana White.

Ulberg’s change in opponent was agreed upon and confirmed by him and his team on Friday afternoon, with news Hill was out of the bout reaching them just before midday.

“All that entailed was me and the coaches watching a quick video of Anthony Smith and then pretty much going back and saying we’re happy with the fight,” City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman told the Herald.

“We shared our thoughts to provide a real quick strategy or plan of the general direction we thought things would go and then we approved the fight.

“Carlos is keen to fight, so we think it’s a challenge.”

Smith poses a different matchup for Ulberg than he faced in Hill, with 57 professional bouts to his name including an unsuccessful challenge for the UFC title in 2019. The 35-year-old has a well-rounded style as he mixes his strikes well with his hands and feet, while he has a strong grappling game. Of his 38 career wins, he has 20 by knockout and 15 by submission.

It puts Ulberg in a different position, too, in terms of trying to position himself in the title picture given the ranking of Smith compared to that of Hill.

“Anthony Smith is a very big name and a former title challenger ... but it probably doesn’t quite have the same effect as fighting the No 3 guy who’s just come off a title [fight], but nevertheless, still a very dangerous opponent who is still a marquee name in the division,” Bareman said.

He said when they got the news Hill would be withdrawing from the fight, there was the consideration that Ulberg might sit out and wait for the American to be ready to fight again. However, there was no clarity around what the injury was or how long it would keep the 33-year-old sidelined and Ulberg was ready to get back to work.

“There was a thought of that, but the problem with that was it was indefinite as to when he would be back. We had to move quickly because there wasn’t going to be a decision on how long he was going to be out – we didn’t even know what the injury was, so there was definitely going to be no decision on when he would be able to come back. For all we know he could be out for a year.”

The news capped off a big day for the UFC, which was also forced to find a replacement to fight against middleweight star Robert Whittaker in the headline fight of its card in Saudi Arabia next week after Khamzat Chimaev withdrew. Highly touted UFC newcomer Ikram Aliskerov, unranked with the promotion but with a 15-1 MMA record, will meet the New Zealand-born Australian former champion in Chimaev’s place.

Christopher Reive joined the Herald sports team in 2017, bringing the same versatility to his coverage as he does to his sports viewing habits.

2024-06-14T03:18:30Z dg43tfdfdgfd