BJ Penn's long awaited UFC return has been delayed for a fourth time.
Originally set to face off against Dennis Siver at both UFC 196 and 197, and Cole Miller at UFC 199, the UFC Hall of Famer was scheduled to face Ricardo Lamas in the main event of UFC Fight Night 97, but was forced from the bout due to an undisclosed injury.
With Penn removed from the contest, Lamas, the UFC's fourth-ranked featherweight, is now waiting for a new opponent.
Here are a few potential late replacements for "The Bully," now that the "The Prodigy" has pulled out of the matchup.
Already calling for the fight on Twitter, bantanmweight Bryan Caraway has publicly issued his interest in the fight to the UFC. Currently on a two fight win streak, most recently overcoming Aljamain Sterling at UFC Fight Night 88 via split decision, "Kid Lightning" last fought in May of this year and currently has no fights booked. A former Strikeforce, EliteXC, and WEC competitor, Caraway has previously fought at featherweight, but would likely only move up a division for a one-off bout with Lamas.
Another bantamweight, Assuncao would be a formidable opponent for Lamas. The Brazilian was on a seven fight win streak before being halted by former bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw on the landmark UFC 200 card. With no logical opponent left inside the division, a one-off at featherweight seems like a possibility for the 34 year old, and with only two weeks to prepare, it shouldn't be too difficult of a weight cut.
Alex "Bruce Leeroy" Caceres, while not ranked, would be a great late replacement to take on Ricardo Lamas. A firm fan favorite, Caceres is looking to bounce back after his loss to Yair Rodriquez at UFC Fight Night 92 back in August. He also recently stepped in to replace Penn at UFC 199, taking a short-notice fight against Cole Miller.
With no fight on the horizon, Darren Elkins will be hoping to maintain the momentum he built with a unanimous decision victory over Godofredo Castro at UFC on FOX 20. Currently ranked thirteenth in the featherweight division, Elkins is on a three-fight win streak with each going the distance. Although ranked below Lamas, Elkins is not to be overlooked inside the Octagon, and would be a sure test for Lamas.
Ranked eleventh by the UFC, Yair Rodriguez has already started to carve out a reputation for himself within the featherweight division. Currently on a five fight win streak the Mexican seemingly has the world at his feet. If he can overcome Lamas on short notice, talk of a title shot may not be far behind.
CHAN SUNG JUNG, THE KOREAN ZOMBIE
In October 2014, Chan Sung Jung put his mixed martial arts career on hold to dutifully fulfill his mandatory military service required of every South Korean male citizen. His last fight was back in 2013 against the then featherweight champion Jose Aldo which resulted in a fourth-round TKO loss. And while his return date is still unknown, his military service began in October 2014, meaning that his pending return may happen at any time. Chan's ties to the Asian market also make him a potential suitor.
UFC Fight Night 97 takes place on October 15 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines.