by MMAWeekly.com Staff
A light heavyweight tilt between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva has been moved to main event status at UFC 108 on Jan. 2 in Las Vegas.

The fight was given a bump after heavyweight headliner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was forced to withdraw from a headlining bout with Cain Velasquez due to a severe staph infection.

The UFC announced the change Monday in an official press release.

“The bout between Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva is a fight we always talked about as a main event, and now these guys have the chance to headline UFC 108 and kick off the New Year in impressive fashion,” UFC President Dana White said in the release. “At the same time, we wish Antonio Nogueira a speedy recovery and can’t wait for his return.”

Nogueira apologized to his fans for the change in plans.

“I am so disappointed,” the 33-year-old Nogueira said. “I am sorry to my fans, but I have learned from my mistakes, and I’m not going into a fight unless I can give 100 percent my best performance. I have to be in top form, and then I can guarantee an exciting fight, a battle like what they saw at UFC 102.

“I appreciate all the fans around the world who are supporting me right now so much, and my next fight, a great fight, I give to them.”

The former Pride champion’s illness was just the latest in a string of injuries and withdrawals that have drastically altered the promotion’s cards through the first quarter of 2010. In a press conference following last weekend’s UFC 105, White said he had never experienced such a high volume of withdrawals in his nine years at the promotion’s helm.

“Being able to get right back in the mix and right back into a main event is an honor,” Evans said. “This is the first step in getting my title back. Thiago is a dangerous fighter standing up and on the ground and I always relish an opportunity to fight the best and put on a great show for the fans.”

“I feel that the bigger the fight, the better I do,” Silva said. “Being in the main event for a UFC card has always been a goal of mine. Rashad is a great fighter, but he’d better come prepared in all aspects of mixed martial arts.”