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The Ten Most Random Replacement Opponents in MMA History

(He wore his own shirt in hopes of getting MMA fans to learn his name. Instead, they all asked him if he’s a cameraman for the new Danny Trejo movie.)

By Seth Falvo

By now you’ve heard that Rashad Evans is out of his co-main event clash against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170, and has been replaced by promotional newcomer Patrick Cummins. Unsurprisingly, reactions to this announcement have ranged from “Who is Patrick Cummins?” to “UFC Books Match Between Number One Contender And Twitter User.“┬áCummins certainly feels like an unusual replacement opponent, but how does he stack up against other fighters who were granted a shot in the spotlight out of sheer necessity for a warm body to step in and save a fight?

Coincidentally enough, we’ll start with his next opponent…

10.) Injury Replacement Daniel Cormier Wins the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.

(Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.)

The Details: Replaced Alistair Overeem against Antonio Silva at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov (09/10/2011).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: It’s hard to believe that just under three years ago, Daniel Cormier such an unknown prospect that sportsbooks didn’t even bother creating odds for him to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, despite creating odds for Ray Sefo and Valentijn “Othereem” Overeem; a $20 bet on Cormier “FIELD” to win the tournament would have netted you $1,000. But when Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem injured his toe/realized fighting in the tournament was pointless and pulled out of his scheduled bout against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Cormier handled Silva so effortlessly that it was impossible not to take note. Cormier would go on to defeat Josh Barnett for the tournament title, and the rest is history.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: While Cormier may not have been high on our radars at the time, it’s hard to call an Olympic wrestler an “unknown prospect.”

On a somewhat related note…

9.) Injury Replacement Steve Jennum Wins UFC 3.

The Details: Replaced Ken Shamrock against Harold Howard in the finals of UFC 3 (09/09/1994).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: Well, did you buy UFC 3 to watch a police officer who dabbled in ninjutsu? Of course not. You bought that card to watch Royce Gracie take on Ken Shamrock, which made things sort-of disappointing when Royce Gracie forfeited from exhaustion to crazy person Harold Howard and Ken Shamrock was unable to continue fighting in the tournament after his victory over Felix Lee Mitchell. What we ended up with was Jennum quickly submitting Howard, winning the tournament before most fans watching could even be bothered learning his name.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Because at this point in UFC history, pretty much everyone other than Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie was a random unknown (okay, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea…).

8.) Stephan Bonnar Saves UFC 153 by Getting Damn-Near Murdered by Anderson Silva.

(Photo Courtesy of

The Details: Replaced Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar as the Main Event of UFC 153 (10/13/2012).
Why This Makes the Top Ten: With The Injury Curse of 2012 in full effect, the UFC saw this show’s main event shift from Aldo vs. Koch to Aldo vs. Edgar to The First Two Healthy Bodies We Can Find, Hopefully At Least One of Which Brazilian. What the UFC ended up getting was then-indestructible middleweight champion Anderson Silva taking on The Ultimate Fighter star Stephan Bonnar at light-heavyweight. The short-notice bout felt like the recipe for a memorable freak show fight, and it certainly did not disappoint.
Why This Isn’t Ranked Higher: As random as matching these two guys up against each other was, let’s not act like either fighter was an unknown nobody before this fight.

7.) Strikeforce Takes Zero Chances on Replacement Opponent for Bobby Lashley, Books Wes Sims to Fight at Strikeforce: Miami.

(Photo Courtesy of Sherdog)

The Details: Replaced Shane Del Rosario/Yohan Banks against Bobby Lashley at Strikeforce: Miami (01/30/2010).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: Believe it or not, there once was a time when Strikeforce was an independently owned company that was actively trying to establish its own stars. One such fighter they were hoping would become a huge draw for them was former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley, who initially agreed to a bout against decorated Muay Thai fighter Shane Del Rosario at this event. Presumably as soon as Strikeforce officials realized how suicidal the match would be for Lashley, they changed their minds and set out to book a fight between Lashley and some guy named Yohan Banks. When the commission didn’t approve the bout – possibly because they asked “Who the hell is Yohan Banks?” and were met with vacant, blank stares – Strikeforce settled for none other than infamous UFC castoff Wes Sims. And if there were any doubts that Sims wouldn’t be a threat to their crossover star, they were erased when Sims showed up looking pregnant and attempted a pro-wrasslin’ test of strength at the start of the fight.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Wes Sims may not have been the most credible opponent for Bobby Lashley, but at least he was once a somewhat-big name. He was a lot more relevant than Jimmy Ambriz – who was also being considered for the fight – ever was.

6.) The So-Very-YAMMA Pit Fighting Saga of Patrick Smith

(Photo Courtesy of

The Details: Injury replacement for pretty much every “Masters Division” fighter YAMMA actually wanted for YAMMA Pit Fighting 1 (04/11/2008).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: It’s almost too easy to make jokes about the YAMMA Pit Fighting Senior Circuit – or “Masters Division,” as their marketing department wanted us to call it. The short version of the events is that the old-school UFC veteran was initially brought in to replace Don Frye against Oleg Taktarov, then removed from the card when he was arrested after a high-speed chase, making his participation appear doubtful. He was brought back when not only were his crimes reduced to misdemeanors, but also when his replacement, Maurice Smith, pulled out from the card. Smith fought Butterbean at the promotion’s only event, because of course he did. Butterbean, for the record, was initially set to take on Gary Goodridge.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Because even though he hadn’t been relevant in over a decade, he was still actively competing at regional shows when YAMMA called him up to fight.

5.) Seth Petruzelli Dethrones The Baddest Man in EliteXC…*sigh* Kimbo Slice

The Details: Injury replacement for Ken Shamrock against Kimbo Slice at EliteXC: Heat (10/04/2008).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: Don’t act like you don’t know the story by now. Petruzelli was the semi-retired light-heavyweight who put on a few last-second pounds to save EliteXC: Heat‘s main event when Ken Shamrock pulled out on the day of the fight. Ironically enough, he pretty much sunk the company by saving this card. Although every MMA fan in the United States would learn his name after he became the Kimbo Killer, let’s not change history and act like he was a big star before the bout.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Well, he was a TUF alumnus, so it’s not like no one had heard of him; never mind that most of those in attendance probably never heard of TUF, either.

4.) Patrick Cummins Will Fight Daniel Cormier at UFC 170

(Photo Courtesy of

The Details: Will replace Rashad Evans against Daniel Cormier at UFC 170 (02/22/2014).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: I’m not writing that he has no chance of beating Daniel Cormier, but on paper he sure as hell doesn’t. The 4-0 prospect has two weeks to prepare for one of the top fighters in the UFC, and the only reason anyone is giving him a chance is because of a high school drama-esque story about Cummins making Daniel Cormier cry when they trained together. This bout is essentially a slightly more legitimate version of Shamrock vs Lober II on paper; let’s see how it actually plays out.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Because who knows, Cummins might actually win…

3.) Pro-Wrestler Sean O’Haire Steps in to Fight Butterbean #PRIDENEVERDIE

The Details: Replacement for Mark Hunt against Butterbean at PRIDE 32: The Real Deal(10/21/2006).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: The craziest aspect of this bout isn’t the fact that PRIDE replaced one of their top heavyweights with a professional wrestler; that was pretty much par for the course with them. No, the strangest part about this fight was that Mark Hunt was pulled from the card when the NSAC deemed that he held an “unfair mat advantage” over Butterbean. I guess if you consider attempting a leg drop in an MMA fight a “mat advantage,” then yeah, O’Haire actually did have a chance of winning this new, “more competitive” fight.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Because Sean O’Haire was actually 2-1 in MMA at the time, so it’s not like he was completely inexperienced when he was called in to replace Mark Hunt. Also, because if you expected anything different from PRIDE, you clearly weren’t a fan.

2.) Fred Ettish: The Excellence of Being Executed

The Details: Injury replacement who stepped in for Ken Shamrock to fight Johnny Rhodes at UFC 2 (03/11/1994).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: What happens when a point fighter actually gets into a real fight? Something so tragic that it immediately becomes the stuff of legends, apparently. You have to feel bad for Ettish, who was there to essentially play Burt Watson before being called into action against an opponent with actual fighting experience. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Why He Isn’t Ranked Higher: Two Reasons: Number one, because if he looked unprepared, it’s because everyone was unprepared for what they were getting into in those days, because mixed martial arts was so new that the very term “mixed martial arts” wasn’t even coined yet. And number two, because the UFC was still very much an infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, so it’s not like matchmakers were looking for fighters who could actually beat King Royce.

1.) Ilir Latifi: The Only Man To Ever Headline a UFC Card Who Still Doesn’t Have a Wikipedia Page.

The Details: Injury replacement for Alexander Gustafsson against Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9(04/06/2013).
Why He Makes the Top Ten: When the guy who just signed you to a contract couldn’t be bothered with learning how to actually spell your name, you know that hopes aren’t exactly high for you. Latifi was a training partner of the injured Alexander Gustafsson, and presumably because every UFC light-heavyweight realized how suicidal accepting a short-notice bout against a Top Ten fighter would be for their careers – and also because Martin “Poker Face” Wojcik already made plans for that day, I imagine – the UFC signed Ilir Latifi to save the event. To his credit, Latifi managed to shed twenty-six pounds in three days in order to make weight for the fight. Too bad for him, though, was that the fight itself was completely forgettable, and he drifted back into obscurity immediately after it was over.
Why He Is Number One: Name one other person in UFC history to headline a fight card who doesn’t even have his own Wikipedia page. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Do you have an even more random replacement opponent in mind? You know you’re dying to share it in the comments section.

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