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Farkhad Sharipov (left) will step in against Tommy Vargas on May 6. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com


Cole Escovedo was all set to take on Tommy Vargas at Tachi Palace Fights 9 on May 6 -- until the UFC came calling.

Last Friday, word broke that Escovedo will take on Brazilian prospect Renan “Barao” Pegado at UFC 130 on May 28, leaving Vargas without a dance partner. Days later, Tachi Palace officials have found their substitute for the UFC-bound “Apache Kid.”

Sherdog.com learned from Tachi Palace Events Coordinator Jeremy Luchau on Monday that Florida-based Kyrgyzstani Farkhad Sharipov will step in on less than two weeks’ notice to meet Vargas.

“Last minute replacements are always tough,” said Luchau. “Once again, we are lucky to be able to pull off such a talented replacement. We wish Cole nothing but the best in his UFC future.”

Luchau also noted that the winner of the Sharipov-Vargas bout will earn a shot at the vacant TPF 135-pound title, recently relinquished by Michael McDonald -- another UFC bantamweight, who coincidentally won the belt with a July 2010 knockout of Escovedo.

Sharipov, who turned 27 on April 19, is a former Kyrgyzstani national freestyle wrestling champion and onetime member of the Russian national wrestling team. Now fighting out of Gracie Barra Orlando, “Frank Sharp” has made his bones on the Southeast circuit since 2007, compiling a 12-3 record with nine wins by way of decision. Last seen decisioning Eric Luke at Bellator Fighting Championships 24 in August, Sharipov also holds notable wins over “The Ultimate Fighter 12” cast member Alex Caceres and American Top Team prospect Chris Manuel.

Vargas, a former collegiate wrestling standout at Northwestern University, made his Tachi debut in December, earning a unanimous decision over Martin Sandoval at TPF 7. The 28-year-old Highland, Calif., native has racked up an 8-1 record since turning to MMA in November 2008 and currently trains at Millennia MMA alongside the likes of UFC bantamweight Charlie Valencia and TPF flyweight champ Darrell Montague.

Tachi Palace Fights 9 takes place May 6 at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif., and will stream live on Sherdog.com. Headlining the card is a high-profile flyweight duel between world-ranked 125-pounder Ian McCall and unbeaten prospect Dustin Ortiz.

Jeff Sherwood contributed to this report.

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