In the second part of our top replacement-opponents feature, we look at some incidents when the man who stepped up saw his big risk pay off…
PAUL DALEY vs. Martin Kampmann (UFC 103)
Paul Daley agreed to make his UFC with just over two week’s notice against Martin Kampmann after Mike Swick pulled out with injury, and what a debut it was.
Kampmann was riding a two-fight win streak heading into the fight, including a hard-fought win over former WEC champ Carlos Condit. But that wasn’t enough to impress the British striker who finished the Danish veteran with strikes at the midway point of the first round.
JAMIE VARNER vs. Edson Barboza (UFC 146)
When Evan Dunham pulled out of his scheduled bout with top lightweight contender Edson Barboza, former WEC champ Jamie Varner got the call that would grant him his second chance with the Zuffa family.
Having never competed in the UFC before, and with an unspectacular 4-1 record on the smaller circuit since leaving the WEC, Varner was largely counted out against the highly-touted Brazilian. But Varner did the unthinkable by stopping Barboza with strikes in the first round, thus pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the year and putting on one of the very best late-notice performances in MMA history.
BRYAN BARBERENA vs. Sage Northcutt (UFC on Fox 18)
Virtual unknown Bryan Barberena stepped in against Sage Northcutt – one of the UFC’s hottest and most marketed rising talents – in a fight in which he had nothing to lose against a heavy favorite. Northcutt was being pushed as potentially the next big thing in MMA, but Barberena wasn’t buying the hype and took the fight looking for much more than a big pay day.
Though Northcutt looked good in the first round, the more experienced Barberena turned the tides late in the second when he locked in an arm triangle choke from inside Sage’s half-guard to get the submission win. Northcutt received some criticism after the loss for tapping in such a position, but trustworthy sources say it was the sheer power of Bryan’s squeeze that determined the outcome, rather than Northcutt’s quick tapping.
CHRIS WEIDMAN vs. Demian Maia (UFC on Fox 2)
Chris Weidman has proven himself many times to be a tough competitor, but perhaps never more-so than when he fought Brazilian jiu-jits expert Demian Maia on short notice and was forced to cut a tremendous amount of weight to make the 186lb middleweight limit. Starting his cut at well over 200lb, Weidman has gone on record saying the cut “almost killed” him.
But although he entered the fight in much less than perfect shape, Weidman showed the kind of warrior spirit against Maia that eventually saw him claim the UFC middleweight title. The win against Maia was just one in an impressive run, and though it was far from being his most impressive, the decision victory earned under such circumstances let folks know just how serious Weidman was.
RENAN BARAO vs. Urijah Faber (UFC 149)
When UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz was forced out of the highly-anticipated rematch with Urijah Faber, fans may have been momentarily disappointed but were soon lifted at the prospect of an even more stylistically exciting matchup between Faber and prodigious Brazilian Renan Barao.
Though the odds between Faber and Cruz may have been tight, things looked much tougher for ‘The California Kid’ when he found himself facing Barao instead. Unlike with most replacement-opponent bouts, Barao had plenty of time to get prepared for this interim bantamweight title bout, and when it came to fight he proved he was more than capable of performing at the championship level. Once again, the replacement opponent came out on top, this time via unanimous decision.