A general training camp for a standard MMA fighter can go anywhere from eight weeks to 12 weeks. That’s not even including the months spent in the gym training in the build-up to training camp, and the general shape that fighters have to keep themselves in, in order to prepare for a contest inside the UFC’s octagon. Preparing for a fight is a grueling process and fighters have to be right both physically and mentally before stepping into the octagon.
However, that’s not always the case. While fighters make themselves legends by their performances inside the cage, some make their story by their ability to step up at a moment’s notice. Some of the biggest moments in MMA history have come due to a fighter coming in on the short notice. It’s always a special moment when a fighter can emerge from out of nowhere, swoop in and grab an unexpected victory.
ten Alexander Hernandez (UFC 222)
Alexander Hernandez was an unknown prospect when he stepped up on less than two weeks’ notice to fight established contender Beneil Dariush at UFC 222. Naturally, the Iranian was a massive favorite over the unknown Texan.
Instead, Hernandez kickstarted his hype train in huge fashion. The prospect blasted Dariush with a huge straight right less than a minute into the fight to earn the victory.
nine Brian Ortega (UFC 222)
From the prelims to the co-main event, Brian Ortega up on short notice at UFC 222. The original stepped main event was set to be Max Holloway taking on Frankie Edgar, but ‘Blessed’ pulled out. As a result, Edgar stayed on the card in the co-main event spot, taking on Ortega, who entered on a few weeks’ notice.
The lack of notice was no problem. Ortega brutally knocked out Edgar near the end of the first round, giving the former champion the first knockout loss of his career.
eight Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 59)
Donald Cerrone had already suffered two losses to Benson Henderson in the past. However, when Eddie Alvarez dropped out of his fight with the former champion on 15 days’ notice, there was no better option than ‘Cowboy’.
While Henderson won their first two installments, Cerrone finally picked up his first victory in the series at this 2015 fight night. The legend lightweight won the bout via unanimous decision.
7 TJ Dillashaw (UFC 173)
UFC 173’s main event was targeted as a battle of Brazilians between bantamweight champion Renan Barao and Raphael Assuncao. Roughly a month out from the contest, Assuncao was forced out due to injury, and the lightly-regarded TJ Dillashaw stepped up for his first headlining bout.
Despite being a massive underdog, the challenger pulled off the impossible. Dillashaw dominated the champion en route to a fifth-round knockout victory.
6 Chris Leben (UFC 116)
Chris Leben was just two weeks off a victory over Aaron Simpson when he got the call to fight again. ‘The Crippler’ decided to step in against Yoshihiro Akiyama after Wanderlei Silva fell out on less than two weeks’ notice.
Arguably one of the greatest middleweight fights of all time, Leben and Akiyama put on a classic. The slugfest came to the end in the third round when the brawler shockingly locked up a triangle choke to earn the victory.
5 Yoel Romero (UFC 221)
UFC 221 was targeted to be a middleweight title unifier between Georges St-Pierre and Robert Whittaker. However, the champion vacated, and the interim champion instead was set to face Luke Rockhold. However, Whittaker was forced out due to injury, and Yoel Romero stepped in on a few weeks’ notice to fight for interim gold.
He didn’t end up winning the title, due to missing weight. However, Romero did score the victory with one of the most vicious knockouts of all time in the third round.
4 Daniel Cormier (UFC 187)
UFC 187 was set to be a light-heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson. However, ‘Bones’ was stripped of his title and pulled from the fight due to a hit and run conviction weeks away from the fight. The promotion decided to insert Daniel Cormier in and set the fight for the UFC’s light-heavyweight strap.
‘DC’ captured the first championship of his UFC career at UFC 187. After surviving an early knockdown, he dominated with his wrestling en route to a third-round submission win.
3 Jon Jones (UFC 128)
Jon Jones defeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126 and was immediately told in the post-fight interview that Rashad Evans was out of his light-heavyweight title fight with Shogun Rua at UFC 128, and asked ‘Bones’ if he would like the fight. On one month’s notice, he accepted.
Jones dominated the contest, winning via third-round knockout. In addition to being one of the most dominant title fights ever, he became the youngest UFC champion ever at 23.
2 Nate Diaz (UFC 196)
Nate Diaz was on a boat in Cabo when he got the call that would change his career. Two weeks out from UFC 196, Rafael Dos Anjos pulled out of his fight with Conor McGregor, and the promotion wanted Diaz to replace him.
After surviving the first round, Diaz rocked and submitted McGregor in the second frame. The victory was one of the biggest upsets ever and kickstarted arguably the best rivalry in MMA history.
one Michael Bisping (UFC 199)
On 17 days’ notice, Michael Bisping accepted to replace Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 199. The Englishman would be facing Luke Rockhold for the UFC middleweight title, just a year and a half after the champion had dominated him before.
Bisping then sprung arguably the biggest upset in MMA history. Just 18 months after their fist encounter, Bisping knocked out Rockhold in round one to earn UFC gold.
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