Tonight will mark the first time Chris Leben has fought since last December, when he lost by unanimous decision to Derek Brunson, and will be just the second time the rugged middleweight has fought since 2011. While it may seem like ages ago in the world of MMA, it wasn’t that far back when Leben had won consecutive bouts over Yoshihiro Akiyama, Aaron Simpson and Jay Silva, until he ran into Brian Stann at UFC 125. After that the feared slugger went on to KO Wanderlei Silva.

Although Leben has struggled since, and his battle with substance abuse is well documented, UFC President Dana White recently had nothing but praise recently for the 32 year-old vet, who has been fighting in the UFC now for eight years. White told the media this week at a UFC 162 event (quote via MMA

“As you get older and take time off, it’s not like you’re going to see Leben come out with incredible hand speed and unbelievable head movement,” White said. “He’s gone through some hard times. He’s a guy who’s overcome a ton of adversity – since before ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ through ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and all throughout every time in his career throughout his life.”

“Every time Chris Leben shows up healthy and doing the right thing, I’m happy because I like Chris Leben very much.”

There’s now doubt thousands of fans likely agree with White’s sentiments. Leben (22-9) is scheduled to take on Andrew Craig (8-1) tonight, who lost by UD to Ronny Markes in his last outing at UFC on FX 7 in January.

Stay tuned to MMA for all your UFC 162 news and coverage.