Paddy Pimblett: A New Promotional Darling

Last weekend’s incredibly British UFC Fight Night served up some very interesting performances from some of the UK’s emerging talents.

And though as far as legitimate, unavoidable prospects go, Tom Aspinall well and truly stole the show with his perfect performance against Sergey Spivak - global audiences seemed to be well and truly enthralled by the promotional debut of Liverpool’s own Paddy Pimblett in the main-card opener.

And it makes sense, the dude simply has that special ‘it factor’ that most fighters would kill for.

I’ve watched Pimblett progressing through Cage Warriors for about five years now - as he began creating buzz for himself - his blonde hair and generally cheerful attitude still making him instantly memorable to anyone who managed to catch a glimpse.

And I suppose the thing that struck me about Paddy The Baddy back in the day, moreso than his fighting skills, was his ability to act as a magnet for both adoration and negativity.

And to be honest it was definitely more the adoration side of things.

This guy was selling out the Echo Arena in Liverpool years ago, earning huge receptions each and every time he walked out in front of that home crowd.

His time as the champion of the Cage Warriors featherweight division ended about 4 years ago after a defeat to the future UFC rostered Nad Naramani.

But that didn’t extinguish Pimblett’s appeal.

And look, I know that earning the support of your home town isn’t the craziest accomplishment, but I dunno, there was clearly something about Paddy back then - and I think that Saturday’s showcase proved his ability to cross over to a more global market.

Since losing his title, the only loss that Pimblett has sustained was at the hands of the Bellator prospect Soren Bak - a guy who, at 15-1, really does seem to be the real deal as far as legitimate future lightweight elites are concerned.

During the time between then and signing with the UFC, Paddy went back to back with first round submission wins over the course of one calendar year - leaning on his strengths to pick up the type of form necessary to ensure that Dana White came knocking.

And I suppose that’s what made his UFC debut both worrying and completely and utterly thrilling.

Paddy is a game and willing striker - and since forgoing the featherweight division in favour of lightweight, he has shown increased power in his hands which is quite promising.

And when he got in there with Luigi Vendramini on Saturday, he went in there looking like a man determined to make a statement about that power he possesses as well as his warrior spirit.

Say what you want about that approach in a test as unique as your UFC debut, but Paddy stepped up to the plate and put on a display that lived up to the role he is looking to fill within the UFC’s roster.

He got in there, he put the pressure on, fought through some hard shots, and closed the show in a manner that had me just wishing that we could have seen this all in front of a live crowd instead of a handful of people in the APEX.

But the thing that some of you Paddy Pimblett neophytes might not be aware of is that this new addition to the UFC’s lightweight roster is a grappler first and foremost - an aggressive submission artist whose striking successes have not been the story of his career.

And I understand the desire to go in there, swing for the bleachers, and bring home a big win - and potentially a nice bonus cheque - to open up your UFC account.

But Pimblett’s shortcomings as far as striking defense is concerned were pretty clear to see.

His head movement was all-but-non-existent - and though the commentary team were heavy on the fact that his hands down style allowed him to fire off shots from odd angles, it does seem like his striking offense is more wild than that intentional.

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Obviously, looking at the lightweight division as a whole - there are levels upon levels of strikers, ones far more dangerous than Luigi Vendramini

That said, he hits hard, can take a punch, and once the fight hits the mat, he’s a very credible submission threat.

And while his loss against Soren Bak certainly showed us some of the limitations to his game - he’s in the UFC, he’s 1 and 0, and as things stand, it looks as though he’s going to be one of this year’s breakout stars.

I was definitely worried at points during that opening round, as Pimblett ate shots - well, admittedly - but the type of shots that superior fighters would have found more frequently.

Look, I’m definitely not alone in thinking that - based on the performance we got out of Paddy The Baddy on Saturday night, a more competent striker would have chewed him up on the feet.

And at this point, Pimblett is in the UFC now - and there are no gimme fights.

That said, I think the Vendramini test was a suitable one - and though it showed the world some very clear holes in Paddy’s game - he didn’t exactly stack the odds in his favour with his approach.

Not to say that he got away with a lucky win, but Pimblett definitely let a lot of his future opponents know about a potential route to victory.

And who knows, maybe it was a just a case of burning off some UFC debut excitement because, again, his grappling skills will likely serve him well within this 155lb crop - but moving forward, I’d like to see a relatively similar level of competition for Pimblett next time around.

Given where that striking defense is at, he clearly needs to work on ensuring that those shots that Vendramini landed aren’t as accessible next time around.

But look, this guy is clearly a warrior, and he’s very clearly going to be an interesting addition to this lightweight roster - and though my assessment may seem a little bleak, he’s still relatively young in his career and with such a huge debut under his belt, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the reaction to this debut lights a fire beneath him to make these necessary improvements.

Paddy came into this bout in incredible shape, and everything I’ve heard from him seems to suggest that his head is in the right place.

All in all, it was one helluva debut and as a fan of this scintillating Scouser for years now, I always love to see a regional level favourite turn up in a big way on the global stage.

But what did you make of this opening matchup for Paddy The Baddy Pimblett?

And based on what we’ve seen so far, where do you place his ceiling within this stacked lightweight division?

Do let us know your opinions in the comments section below, we always love to hear from you guys.