Middleweights Brian Stann and Jorge Santiago will meet May 28 at UFC 130 in Las Vegas.
Each fighter views the bout as a necessary step toward becoming a force in the 185-pound division.
"At first I wanted to fight Wanderlei Silva, but this is a better fight for me," Stann told ESPN.com. "I have no hard feelings toward Wanderlei; he doesn't know when he is going to be healthy, and he didn't want to change dates and make anybody wait for him.
"Jorge Santiago is cemented in the top 10 of my weight class. That's who I need to fight."
Stann, a former WEC light heavyweight champion and lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, is 2-0-0 as a middleweight. His overall professional mixed martial arts record is 10-3-0.
In January, Stann needed just one round to stop heavily favored veteran Chris Leben. He won that bout by TKO.
Santiago (23-8-0) returns to UFC for the first time since being released by the promotion after a December 2006 knockout loss to Alan Belcher. Since his departure from UFC, Santiago has won 11 of 12 fights.
The 30-year-old Brazilian is eager to become a 185-pound contender, and his handlers believe a win over Stann will achieve that goal.
"The biggest thing is that Brian Stann is an up-and-coming guy," Santiago's manager, Malki Kawa, told ESPN.com.
"Against Brian Stann, we will be able to gauge exactly where Jorge is at right now. If Jorge can win this fight, then maybe we have more of a right to ask for a top-two or top-three guy."
Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar will put his title on the line for the second time in a row against Gray Maynard in the UFC 130 main event. The two fought to a draw Jan. 1.
Other high-profile bouts on the card include light heavyweights Quinton "Rampage" Jackson against Matt Hamill and heavyweights Frank Mir taking on Roy Nelson.
UFC 130 will be held at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Franklin McNeil covers MMA and boxing for ESPN.com. He also appears regularly on "MMA Live," which airs on ESPN2. Follow him on Twitter.