We All Love a Good Story… And Winning on Short Notice Against the Odds is Definitely in That Category…
Has there been an MMA event in 2019 without a cancellation? There are so many things that can go wrong in the sport. Fighters have weight cut issues and have to pull out. Sometimes they injured in the build-up to the fight. Maybe they test positive for some banned substance.
Now and again something happens where a fighter withdraws on short notice and is replaced by some other legend who is willing to step up to the plate. Let’s take a look at the ten best short notice wins in MMA history. We’re looking at the fighters who won after stepping up as replacements – not the one waiting for a new opponent.
Also, we’re talking about a period of five weeks or less. Enjoy!
10. Dustin Poirier v Josh Grispi
Poirier had just five weeks to prepare for Grispi who was riding a ten fight winning streak. Grispi was on top of the world before UFC 125 and was supposed to take on Jose Aldo for the featherweight title. Poirier was given the chance to make his UFC debut against the 145lb highflyer in 2011 and boy did he take advantage.
In one of the most underrated performances of all time, 21-year-old Poirier beat up the top contender for three rounds and won a unanimous decision. Now he’s the interim lightweight champion. It’s been a long road for ‘The Diamond.’
9. Brian Ortega v Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar didn’t need to take this fight. ‘The Answer’ was supposed to fight Max Holloway for the title, but after the Hawaiian was mysteriously forced out, Edgar decided that he still wanted to fight. So Brian Ortega stepped up to the plate on just 3 weeks notice.
Edgar had never been knocked out in his career before he ran into ‘T-City’ who was a renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist. He received an uppercut from Hell that literally lifted him off of his feet, and Ortega would march on to fight Holloway.
8. Jack Hermansson v Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza
Swedish fighter Jack Hermansson went under the radar coming into this fight with ‘Jacare.’ He took the fight on just under a month’s notice with most people expecting Souza to school the ‘The Joker.’ One of the best grapplers in the history of the UFC, ‘Jacare’ was expected to push on for a title shot.
Instead, Hermansson would go on and put a beating on the Brazilian. He won by unanimous decision back in April 2019 and blew the middleweight division right open.
Jon Jones v Rashad Evans
Jon Jones had about five weeks to prepare for his first title fight when Rashad Evans pulled out against Maurizio ‘Shogun’ Rua. ‘Bones’ was a phenom and had just three years of professional fighting experience. That didn’t matter, because at UFC 128, he came into his own and put on a clinic.
He brutalized Rua to become the UFC’s youngest ever and arguably most complete champion. Rua was like a punchbag for ‘Bones’ who left him bruised, bloody and battered. Jones has had his issues inside and outside the cage, but there’s no doubting his sheer class.
6. Georges St. Pierre v Matt Hughes III
This fight was taken on five weeks notice. St. Pierre would capitalise on the opportunity to win back the welterweight title against the man he had first lost it to. They were 1-1 coming into this fight for the interim title. ‘Rush’ would go on to win this and go off the biggest winning streak in the division’s history.
He’d beat Serra to become the legitimate champion and now he’s regarded as arguably the greatest UFC fighter of all time. St. Pierre is definitely in the top three.
6. Seth Petruzelli v Kimbo Slice
The pair fought back in 2008. On the day of the event, Ken Shamrock pulled out of a fight with Slice in a bid to sabotage the Elite XC event. Petruzelli stepped up from the prelims and thrust into a high-profile fight with just hours to prepare. It was mad because former streetfighter Slice was being pushed hard by the dodgy promotion.
He knocked out ‘Slice’ in just 14 seconds with an estimated 4.1 million viewers. It was an absolute shambles for Elite XC who would eventually go out of business and no wonder because they were so corrupt.
5. Donald Cerrone v Benson Henderson
‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is renowned for being a fighter’s fighter. He doesn’t care who he takes on or when it happens. He’d fight every week if he could. Back in 2015, he defeated Myles Jury at UFC 182. That’s not the story. The story is that he then pushed to fight former lightweight champion Benson Henderson just 15 days later as a replacement for Eddie Alvarez.
It was such a Cerrone move and it worked out for him as he would go on to win a unanimous decision. The result wasn’t without controversy, as 12 out of 14 media publications scored the fight in favour of Henderson. What is epic about this is what a wildman Cerrone is.
4. Chris Leben v Yoshihiro ‘Sexyama’ Akiyama
Chris Leben outrageously took this fight on just two weeks notice. He was the last minute replacement for Nate Marquardt, and ‘Sexyama’ was not happy about it. While Leben was a renowned savage in the States, he wasn’t very well-known in Japan where the fight took place back in 2010.
It was a crazy clash of two madmen. They threw bombs at each other, with Akiyama’s judo forcing Leben to fight off of his back for a lot of the fight. Finally, in the last round, Leben would manage to sink in a triangle choke and submit the Japanese superstar in front of his own crowd.
3. Daniel Cormier v Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva
We all know Daniel Cormier from his rivalry with Jon Jones and being a light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion. Arguably, it’s in the latter division where he’s had the most success in his career. It’s only because his close friend Cain Velasquez was around that he didn’t initially compete there for the UFC.
Back in 2009, he was approached with the idea of entering the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. He reluctantly took part as an alternate on five weeks notice. He fought Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva on just five weeks notice and knocked him out in the first round. The Brazilian had just beaten the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. Cormier would win the tournament and become Strikeforce’s heavyweight champion.
2. Conor McGregor v Nate Diaz
Conor McGregor had an aura of invincibility around him before this fight was made back in 2016. The then-featherweight champion was supposed to take on Rafael Dos Anjos for the 155lb belt, but after the Brazilian got injured, McGregor accepted a fight with Diaz on just two weeks notice.
The rest is history. After lighting up Diaz for a round, McGregor gassed out. He got caught, panicked and tried to take Diaz down and ended up getting submitted. Diaz was paid $500,000 for the fight but would get millions from the rematch.
1. Michael Bisping v Luke Rockhold
This had to be at the top of the list. Despite a late surge towards the end of his career, British MMA legend Michael Bisping looked like he was going to finish his career without having that shiny belt wrapped around his waist. When the chance came to rematch with middleweight champion Luke Rockhold back in 2016, he jumped at it.
The pair had fought before, with Rockhold beating up the British fighter and submitting him. Nobody gave Bisping a chance. He’d barely trained before this fight. ‘The Count’ would get revenge against Rockhold, knocking him out in the very first round in one of MMA’s most satisfying moments.