UFC 282 takeaways: Paddy Pimblett’s bank heist, the rudderless light heavyweight division, and more


Well, that happened. This year’s UFC pay per view was meant to clarify the division of light heavyweight. Instead, Jan Blachowicz and Magomed ankalaev were drawn to a draw. The belt remains vacant and suddenly, a new title matchup is being created for January. The bizarre result capped off a roller-coaster night at UFC 282 that also saw Paddy Pimblett eke out a controversial win over Jared Gordon, Ilia Topuria rocket into contention with a monster finish of Bryce Mitchell, plus much more.

With so much to discuss, let’s hit our five biggest takeaways from UFC 282.

1. As a UFC fighter, has any belt felt like more of a burden than this light heavyweight title? If so, I can’t think of it.

There’s really no other way to frame this following the oddity that was UFC 282’s main event: The 205-pound division is a rudderless, directionless mess. And it happened overnight. Just six months ago Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira gifted us with one of the greatest UFC title fights of all-time. The MMA world was giddy, left to salivate at the glorious era the mad Czech would surely bring to the throne. Now? And now? Even UFC president Dana White couldn’t be bothered to fake any pseudo-excitement for the pieces his promotion is working with at 205 pounds. In all my years of covering this sport, I can’t recall seeing a more flaccid announcement of a title fight than how White threw out Teixeira vs. Jamahal Hill on Saturday night.

In a way, it was fitting — 2022 was a year defined by outlandish upsets, carnival-style judging, main events after main events that ended in untimely injuries, and really just a whole lot of weirdness at every turn. At least that weirdness saved its weirdest for last.

So let’s talk about UFC 282’s main event for a moment, even if the UFC is apparently just going to act as if it didn’t happen. I scored the bout as most people did — 48-47 for Magomed Ankalaev, giving him rounds one, four, and five. It may not have been the second coming of Prochazka vs. Teixeira, but Ankalaev has every reason to be upset. He persevered through certain defeat after Blachowicz’s early barrage of leg kicks, made the necessary adjustments, pivoted to his wrestling, and gutted out what should’ve been a defining moment of his career — a championship performance in the championship rounds. Instead, he flew home as one of the night’s biggest losers, second only to poor Anthony Smith, who had the misfortune of learning about the sudden cancellation of his March bout with Hill while literally working live on-air for the ESPN broadcast. In the immortal words of Bart Simpson, you could actually pinpoint the second when the man’s heart ripped in half.

Frankly, the big winner from this baffling saga (other than Hill) is Glover Teixeira. The 42-year-old ex-champ somehow pulled off the full Nate Diaz and ended up with the most unlikely yet most favorable outcome imaginable after the UFC tried to screw him over. There’s a real world now where Teixeira saunters into Brazil next month as a heavy favorite and recaptures his belt in front of his countrymen then rides off into the sunset forever.

Only in MMA.

Before we move on though, let’s spare a few words to applaud Blachowicz as well. The pride of Poland won hearts and minds all over the globe with his Skyrim-themed walkout. He also handled an awkward situation that was clearly extremely uncomfortable and difficult with more grace and class than any person could ask for.

Let’s try to all be more Jan Blachowicz as we move into the new year.

2. I’m not a fan of the R-word. In a world where every vaguely close decision in MMA gets lambasted as a sign of the end times, I generally try to keep a level head and maintain some perspective. What about Paddy Pimblett beating Jared Gordon? Nah, son. It’s a robbery. And the minds at MMADecisions.com, Verdict MMA, and seemingly every other human with a pair of eyeballs aside from three judges and Pimblett himself agreed.

Just look at some of these responses from Pimblett’s fellow UFC fighters.

” The worst @ufc decision .”

“Absolute nonsense.”

“I’ve lost all faith in this sport.”

Yikes. MMA fighters are unable to agree on any issue.

If you want to fault Gordon for taking his foot off the gas in Round 3, as White did post-fight, that’s fair. A wiser man would’ve left no room for any reasonable doubt. But here’s the thing: That wouldn’t have even mattered! Because the method by which we landed at unanimous 29-28 Pimblett scores was even more inexplicable than that. Somehow, two — count ’em, two! — judges watched that fight and decided Round 3 was actually the only round Gordon won. No joke. Chris Lee’s scorecard was at the most a bit logical. The same cannot be said for the absurdity Ron McCarthy or Doug Crosby displayed.

(Yes, that Doug Crosby. The same judge who scored a 50-45 for Danny Sabatello at Bellator 289 on Friday. This is a very interesting thought. Crosby somehow turned in two of the worst scorecards of 2022 in back-to-back days on opposite sides of the country. What a weekend this man had. )

Pimblett was perhaps even more unself-conscious than the look. In his post-fight media rounds, the 27-year-old repeatedly scoffed at the mere mention that the fight could’ve been close. For better or worse, Pimblett was the biggest story of UFC 282 — both during fight week and on fight night. Both were not for the reasons you would expect.

Officially, the villain story of Pimblett is in full swing. However, many prizefighters are making huge amounts of money from their fans’ desire for them to get their due.

Pimblett will benefit from Saturday’s bank heist. If the Scouser could’ve won with a dominant showing, the UFC’s promotional push would’ve likely been cranked into overdrive and Pimblett may have found himself staring down the barrel of a matchup against the top 15 of the division. It’s no surprise that he would have lost against Gordon. But now Pimblett can take a lateral (or backward) step and who really is going to complain?

If I’m a UFC matchmaker, I’m giving him the Clay Guidas of the division 100 times out of 100 before the I throw him against the Damir Ismagulovs and Jalin Turners of the world.

In more ways than one, “The Baddy” dodged a major bullet on Saturday.

3. Speaking of Scousers it is foolish to dismiss any athlete in their twenties. But, I believe we have seen the best of the Darren Till experience.

After being beaten for five minutes, Till was defeated by Dricus du Plessis in a rear-naked choke. That’s six uninspiring performances in a row now — and a 1-5 record — since Till was crowned as the heir apparent to the welterweight throne in early 2018, and the story at UFC 282 remained the same; Du Plessis, who went 0-for-7 on takedown attempts in his previous win, racked up a perfect 6-for-6 mark against Till despite barely being able to lift his arms after the first round. When Dillon Danis is landing zingers like this without really trying, that’s not where you want to be in your career.

Realistically, Till is who he is at this point — a charismatic but deeply flawed fighter with easily exploitable holes, a plateaued skill set, and an increasingly worrisome injury history. (He may have suffered another knee injury on Saturday, this time a torn ACL. If that’s the case, it adds to a growing list of misfortunes that have chipped away at his physical gifts.)

He still has the name of a major and plenty of time to make a difference in his life. Perhaps he can mount an unexpected renaissance like his countryman Michael Bisping. He certainly shouldn’t be leaping to fight a ranked foe anytime soon. But at this point, if his fate is to get upset by an unknown in the first round of a PFL tournament by 2024, would anyone really be surprised?

4. It’s been said before, but I think it bears repeating again: Ilia Topuria will be a champion in the future.

The man is frightening. It is truly a sight to see his physical intensity. Topuria throws every ounce of himself into his punches, and his grappling is some of the most underrated in the UFC today. Think about this: Topuria was in danger zone dancing with Ryan Hall and Bryce Mitchell, and didn’t just survive but outlasted them both. It’s impossible to overstate how impressive that is. Between Topuria, Arnold Allen, and Movsar Evloev, the future of 145 pounds is stupidly bright, with a combined 21-0 UFC record held between the trio. Yet Topuria may be the best out of all of them. Imagine the scene he would inflict upon Pimblett, if UFC had ever booked the fight.

But I digress, because Topuria’s callout of Brian Ortega was right on the money. The matchup is great. It’s only a matter of time before this 25-year-old monster is in the title picture, and if Ortega is able to return from his shoulder injury anytime soon, he’s exactly the kind of big name that could catapult Topuria into the conversations he already belongs in. Because Topuria is a top-5 featherweight in the world. It’s all he needs to be proven.

5. Most scribes would probably use this last remaining space to heap superlatives upon the debut of Raul Rosas Jr., who at 18 years old, became the youngest winning fighter in UFC history with a poised-beyond-his-years destruction of Jay Perrin on the prelims. Rosas is only the beginning of his story. There will be many more opportunities to show him our appreciation. Let’s instead focus on Rosas Jr., who gave out quality advice Saturday night. He was not far from the same space Rosas Jr. will be in.

Edmen Shahbazyan’s message to the teenager after UFC 282: “Don’t fall into your hype.”

The kid should listen. Few up-and-coming talents have seen their ascension derailed in as soul-destroying fashion as Shahbazyan, whose 4-0 UFC start ran headfirst into a brick wall after three straight reality checks courtesy of the middleweight top 15. Confidence is king in the fight game, and we’ve seen a downward spiral like the one Shahbazyan endured sink plenty of prospects in the past. The ghost of Brandon Thatch says hello. But young fighters should also pay attention, because everything about how Shahbazyan handled the past 13 months? Chef’s kiss. This is how it’s done.

Shahbazyan restructured almost every area of his life, rather than continue to bang on the same brick wall. New management. Rehired coaches. His career needs new caretakers. He took time to retool and refresh his game and did not rush into the water. Shahbazyan’s second-round destruction of Dalcha Lungiambula at UFC 282 was exactly the type of tune-up fight the UFC rarely affords its prospects — and it’s easy to forget that a “prospect” is exactly what Shahbazyan remains. We’re talking about someone who just turned 25 years old. “The Golden Boy” was able to showcase improvements in his takedown defense, add a little slice of green atop his Wikipedia page for the first time since 2019, and take the first step to rebuilding his confidence without getting hurled back into the middleweight elite.

Shahbazyan is still young enough to turn things around, without question. If he winds up being a middleweight who matters by the time all is said and done, we’ll likely look back at UFC 282 as further proof of why tune-up fights are so widely deployed elsewhere in combat sports. All in all, it was perfect matchmaking and perfect execution on 13-month plan to revive one of the division’s bright young talents. Fighters and managers, take note.

Source: https://www.mmafighting.com/2022/12/11/23503484/ufc-282-takeaways-paddy-pimbletts-bank-heist-the-rudderless-light-heavyweight-division-and-more?rand=96749