What it would mean if a 'man off the street' knocked off one of the UFC's best

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LAS VEGAS – Whatever Pat Cummins is making to fight Daniel Cormier on Saturday at UFC 170, and it's a heck of a lot more than the $8 an hour he was making to bake the croissants and man the drive-through window of a Dana Point, Calif., coffee shop, he's already more than paid for himself.

Cummins was gold in a live spot with Charissa Thompson on Fox Sports 1 on Thursday. He took the fight with Cormier about 12 hours after it was learned that Rashad Evans had been injured and pulled out of the bout.

He was funny, he was relatable and in no time built up the appearance, at least, of some sort of rivalry with Cormier.

Cormier, of course, is one of the UFC's best mixed martial arts fighters. He's ranked No. 4 at heavyweight and is going to make his debut at light heavyweight Saturday.

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His 13-0 MMA record includes victories over the likes of Josh Barnett, Antonio "Big Foot" Silva, Frank Mir and Roy Nelson.

All of the available evidence suggests he should trounce Cummins, even though Cummins has strong athletic credentials of his own. Cummins, after all, is not only making his UFC debut on short notice against a highly regarded opponent, the four men he beat on the regional circuit had twice as many losses as wins at the time he fought them.

There is a reason that the online sports book 5Dimes opened Cormier as an astounding minus-1475 favorite.

Cummins, though, was a two-time All-American wrestler at Penn State and the 2004 NCAA heavyweight Division I runner-up.

Though Cormier defeated him in the only wrestling match they had in competition, Cummins allegedly got the better of Cormier at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as he was helping Cormier prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

That, you may recall, is the session in which Cummins allegedly made Cormier cry, fueling this instant rivalry.

That story earned Cummins the fight, and it's brought some attention to what on paper figures to be a mismatch of epic proportions.

But has anyone thought of the significance of what it will mean if Cummins actually, you know, wins?

A Cummins win would validate the notion that a guy could walk in off the street on less than two weeks' notice and beat the best the UFC has to offer.

The widely held perception is that the best fighters in the world are in the UFC. The UFC unquestionably doesn't have 100 of the top 100, but it has an overwhelmingly majority of the best 100 fighters. If you add in Bellator, you may exceed 95 of the top 100.

The significance of a Cummins win can't be overstated. Cummins said there are plenty of excellent fighters the public is unaware of who would do well given a chance.

"The whole system to build people up, I mean, there is no system," Cummins said. "If you don't know people and can't work your way into a promotion, you're in trouble. You can't get out there. I mean, [UFC middleweight champion] Chris Weidman is the same way. What did he have [before he signed with the UFC], four fights?

"He couldn't get fights, but he finally took a fight on short notice and started beating people up and look where he is today."

The point is valid, but Weidman's situation is different. He replaced Rafael Natal in a 2011 fight with Alessio Sakara. Weidman was injured himself at the time, but fought anyway and earned himself a win.

But Sakara was not nearly as highly regarded at the time as Cormier is now. Cormier is the fourth-ranked heavyweight and now, moving to light heavyweight, may need only one more win if he defeats Cummins to fight for the UFC belt.

Sakara was never at any point in his UFC career considered championship timber.

Cummins, though, is being asked to fight one of the elite men in the world after having not fought for nine months and having never fought anyone remotely close to world class.

It's a big difference, but if there is anything that UFC president Dana White loves more than a devastating knockout, it's a previously unknown taking advantage of an opportunity.

"I'm a Patriots' fan, and back in [2001, quarterback Tom] Brady got a chance when the other guy, [Drew] Bledsoe got hurt," White said. "Brady said, 'You're never getting me out of here,' and look what he's done."

Brady's situation was remarkable, but even it isn't comparable to Cummins'. Brady played at a major college and had a year of experience with the Patriots before he took over early in his second year when Bledsoe was injured.

A Cummins win would be, without question, the biggest upset in UFC history and one of the biggest in sports history. Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson as a 42-1 underdog, but sports books in those days were far more willing to put up those kind of disparate lines.

Rarely are those types of lines posted now.

A Cummins win over Cormier wouldn't be as unlikely as, say, the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team's win over the Soviet Union, but it would be in that ballpark.

It would be analogous to an NFL team signing a free-agent quarterback at the end of the regular season who then goes out and starts, and wins, a playoff game on the road.

The implications of a Cummins win would be felt far and wide, but nowhere would it be more significant than it would be on the regional circuit.

There, guys are competing for a couple hundred bucks, chasing a long-shot dream at glory. Most of the times, the effort and the sacrifices aren't worth it, because they don't get the chance to make the big time.

Cummins, though, could be the guy to cause those fighters on the regional circuit to reassess their priority. Staying ready at all times would become paramount, because Cummins is proving that opportunity can come at any time.

It's unlikely, maybe even highly unlikely, that Cummins could defeat Daniel Cormier.

It's not impossible, though, and so the downtrodden everywhere will be rooting for Patrick Cummins to do his thing.

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