The replacement fillers: MMA's short-notice hitmen


On Saturday, April 9, 2011, Gegard Mousasi will face late replacement Keith Jardine in a must-win fight if he hopes to contend with Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson. The call for Jardine was made on March 31.

Talk about short notice.

Like most last-minute fights, this is a huge opportunity for the guy coming in with nothing to lose (Jardine) and huge disadvantage for the opponent (Mousasi) who has trained for his originally scheduled foe (Mike Kyle).

It's like the element of a surprise attack when you have little-to-no time to re-adapt to your new threat. If you can pull off the upset, you will be embraced and if you lose, you will have to go back to the drawing board.

Let's see some examples of when it worked -- and when it went really bad.


UFC 50: "The War of '04" was originally scheduled to feature a trilogy fight between former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz and rival Guy Mezger from the Lion's Den.

The hate between Ortiz and the Lion's Den stemmed back to UFC 19 when Tito Ortiz destroyed Mezger with a TKO victory, avenging an original loss to Mezger at UFC 13.

The start of the Shamrock-Ortiz feud ignited after a disrespectful celebration turned personal. Ortiz gave the Lion's Den the bird and pretended to 'bury' Mezger's body.


When Zuffa purchased the UFC they made millions out of an incident that former owners SEG could not seem to put together. The Ortiz-Shamrock feud at that time was the biggest in UFC history and a top draw for quite some time.

UFC 50 was suppose to be another nod to the Team Punishment-Lion's Den feud until Guy Mezger got injured and had no choice but to pull out. Joe Silva had little time to find a "name" replacement and in came a relative unknown.

In baseball they call it getting the call-up to the majors and that is a perfect term for this move.

Quebec-Native Patrick "The Predator" Cote was priming for an undercard fight  when he got the call. He accepted the fight and challenged the former UFC light heavyweight champion.

The move was smart because Cote was undersized, under-experienced and could either upset Ortiz or show he has what it takes to be a fighter.

The latter was shown more than anything that night.

For three long rounds of takedowns and elbows, Ortiz had done as thought when dismantling the young French-Canadian. The win kept Ortiz's title aspirations alive but gave him nothing in a great win over a game opponent.

Patrick Cote gained new fame and respect from his employers who had to be happy the fight went the whole three rounds. Maybe Zuffa wanted their brash former light heavyweight champion to smash someone and look good.

The fight paid off for both and Zuffa now had a kid full of promise and heart. The situation didn't pay off for Cote's dream of knocking off a game opponent but he didn't lose a whole lot either.



The original "Replacement Filler" was a Nebraska police officer by the name of Steve Jennum. He trained in a relative unknown art known as NinJitsu giving him the nickname of "Ninja Cop."

Jennum was an alternate at UFC 3 that fluke night in Charlotte, NC, when he got his call-up to the big leagues.

The UFC never took into account that having a such a brutal sport may lead to injuries for progressing winners. They had alternates who would be on stand-by without qualifying and thanks to this improbable occurrence it changed.

Ken Shamrock was set to face the colorful Harold Howard in the finals of UFC 3 but an injury forced him to step out and "Ninja Cop" stepped in.

Howard was clearly gassed and even threw an unorthodox front flip-kick to get any damage on the fresh Jennum. He shortly succumbed to Jennum who blasted Howard with strikes, leading to a submission win.

Jennum was on cloud nine and even won his following fight at UFC 4 as well. The "Ninja Cop" had made it but three straight losses later and Jennum was back on the police force full-time without another trip into MMA.

This is not as much a replacement like Jardine's upcoming bout but it still shows the element of surprise and how dangerous the game of fighting is.


Chris Leben is one of the sport's most iconic figures today from his stint on the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and his balls-to-the wall fighting style. The angry young man has grown up under the sport and lived most of his life in front of the camera.


A battle with alcohol which led to an arrest with jail time and a suspension due to the use of performance enhancers derailed Leben.

He had two straight losses to add to his problems.

The year of 2010 was a rebirth for the "Crippler" as he had a string of wins you could only dream for. He got back into the gym and rid himself of his distractions to focus solely on fighting.

He beat Jay Silva on UFC Fight Night: "Maynard vs. Diaz" by unanimous decision to start his climb. He then went on to fight  Aaron Simpson at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale and secured the win by TKO.

Phone rings and Leben accepts a shot against Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 116. Akiyama was planning to fight Wanderlei Silva. "Sexyama" was upset at Silva being injured and even made demeaning comments about Leben as a suitable opponent for a replacement.

I hope Akiyama has a stomach for crow as he ate a whole lot when he lost by way of submission. The fight propelled Leben to the brink of a title shot before a loss to war vet Brian Stann at UFC 125.


On one fateful October night, a UFC stray destroyed Elite XC and myth of a YouTube sensation. The fight was seen by a national audience and MMA purists loved it.

The main event was set to be Elite XC heavyweight Kimbo Slice against UFC legend Ken Shamrock. The fight was intended to bolster Kimbo Slice's net worth while destroying another faded star like he did with Tank Abbott.

The day of the event, Shamrock went down with an injury leaving no time to find even a name to fill-in as punching bag. Gary Shaw grabbed Seth Petruzelli to give him the shot against Kimbo and some extra coin in the pocket.

Petruzelli may have been the lightest heavyweight ever and he demolished Kimbo Slice at a mere :14 seconds of round one by TKO.

The fair-weather crowd thought they had witnessed the star of Seth being born but in reality it was UFC Dana White's moment to prove an Ultimate Fighter "loser" was even better then a Elite XC marketing ploy.

Gary Shaw's plan to have Kimbo beat a "Joe Schmoe" cost him everything and he shortly sold what was left of Elite XC's value.

The UFC-Strikeforce world may benefit from the depth more than ever when an injury plans to ruin a big fight or even a main event. If Keith Jardine beats heavily-favored Gegard Mousasi, does that mean the UFC is better or that Jardine caught the element of surprise?

The UFC featherweight division debuted with a replacement upset by the name of Dustin Poirer when he beat former number one contender Josh Grispi back at UFC 125. Brian Ebersole with his craziness beat Chris Lytle also upon short notice derailing any title aspirations for "Lights Out."

Who is your favorite "Replacement Filler" Maniacs?

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