Matt Hamill stepped in on short notice at UFC 133. | File photo: Dave Mandel
While the risk of competing with injuries often makes picking fights a crapshoot, those who pull out of bouts when it is impossible to compete leave another vacuum to be filled: those who step in on short notice to replace them.
A full training camp for a fight -- lasting a minimum of eight weeks or more -- is a precisely engineered effort. Fighters tackle a spectrum of things to be addressed, from cardio and strength to fight training. Nutrition and weight monitoring come into the mix, as does tailoring workouts to make the fighter peak at the right time as the match approaches.
That is why short-notice fights are such wild cards, and with a rash of them populating UFC cards of late, the perils of being a short-notice replacement have become apparent.
Matt Hamill’s sleepwalk in a two-round knockout loss to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 133 was probably the worst showing of his career. Hamill was unable to get off, could not mount a single legitimate takedown attempt and was summarily put away with strikes, this despite going three rounds with the division’s most dangerous puncher, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, a mere two months ago.
Filling in for Vladimir Matyushenko after the Belarusian veteran was injured in mid-July, Hamill took the kind of setback every short-notice fighter risks when he steps up: a loss well beyond the realm of reasonable performance expectations.
You can also throw in welterweight Rick Story’s loss to Charlie Brenneman at UFC Live 4, where Story filled in for an injured Anthony Johnson. Though his defeat to “The Spaniard” may have been inevitable given Brenneman’s excellent wrestling, Story was outhustled en route to losing a decision that halted an otherwise mounting run at top contention. That is a tough pill to swallow.
It is something to think about the next time you see a guy filling in on short notice. The rewards are great, but the risks are considerable.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.