by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Coming off of a successful run as the lightweight champion of season eight of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Efrain Escudero will have to wait a little longer for his official UFC debut. He has been forced off the card with a rib injury, sources close to Escudero confirmed to MMAWeekly.com on Wednesday.

Escudero was in Columbus last weekend for UFC 96, but since that time the young fighter suffered the injury in training, forcing off of the April 1 UFC Fight Night 18 card.

After a successful run during the eighth season of the reality show, Escudero came into his finale fight against housemate Phillipe Nover as an underdog, but he proved all the naysayers wrong by winning a unanimous decision and the contract to compete in the UFC.

With Escudero sidelined, the hunt will now begin for his replacement to face Jeremy Stephens, who will fight for the second time in just under three months.

Stephens was called upon to replace his friend and training partner Hermes Franca, when Franca was forced out of his bout against Joe Lauzon in February due to injury. Stephens ended up dropping the bout to Lauzon by armbar in the second round.

Now the Iowa based fighter will wait for the UFC to find a replacement on just under three weeks notice from fight time.

Stay tuned to MMAWeekly.com for more information on this fight as it becomes available.