After the disappointment of the football, British fight fans were up in the early hours of Sunday morning to watch two Liverpool-born fighters compete at UFC 282, in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, it was a mixed bag of results. Paddy Pimblett controversially beat Jared Gordon via unanimous decision in the co-main event. Darren Till, on the other hand, was submitted in round three of the Fight of the Night by Dricus Du Plessis, making it five losses in six fights.
As the final numbered event of the year, the UFC would have liked for there to have been more clarity in the co-main and main event. The main event fight between Jan Blachowicz v Magomed Ankalaev for the vacant light heavyweight title ended in a draw. This, along with the underwhelming British performances, left fans frustrated and confused.
Paddy Pimblett v Jared Gordon
‘The Baddy’ came out to his trademark ‘Scouse house’, with the whole arena singing: “Oh Paddy ‘The Baddy’.” His American opponent was getting some boos on home soil. But, despite the negative reaction he got, ‘Flash’ was calm.
The opening round had one consistent theme – Gordon landing left hook after left hook on Pimblett’s raised chin. Paddy was never properly hurt by these strikes, but it won’t have been easy viewing for his fans.
Round two was his best of the fight. The Next Gen fighter controlled range well, attempted a submission, and was the one ending the exchanges. Then absolutely nothing happened in the final round. There were only six significant strikes in the whole round. Gordon almost took the 27-year-old down, and from then the American controlled the position by keeping his opponent against the cage for the majority of the remaining four minutes. He thought he’d won the first two rounds and must have felt that if he controlled the last round he’d win the fight. He won’t be approaching fights in this way again.
“All three judges scored the contest 29-28 for the winner, by unanimous decision,” were the words of UFC announcer Bruce Buffer after the fight. This wasn’t controversial. The name that followed it caused confusion and disagreement in the MMA community. “Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett.” This put social media into overdrive. Ariel Helwani even tweeted: “Was that one of the worst decisions ever?” Gordon took to Twitter to air his feelings on the bout.
I was robbed everyone knows it i… I can cry about it but I been back from worst and gods plan is the best plan so I know there’s something big to come from it
— Jared Gordon (@JFlashGordonMMA) December 11, 2022
There’s an argument for either man to have won all three rounds; a slim one, but still an argument. For the UK’s most popular mixed martial artist, this may be one that he looks back on with relief.
Darren Till v Dricus Du Plessis
‘The Gorilla’ was hoping for a revamped version of himself on Saturday night. He trained in Thailand for this fight camp. The last time he fully prepared for a fight outside of Merseyside was when he got his first break in the UFC when he lived and trained in Brazil. There was a new-look corner to go along with that, with new PFL featherweight champion Brendan Loughnane taking the reins between rounds.
The fight couldn’t have started much worse. Till was taken down early by Du Plessis who controlled the back and landed repeated left-hands. So dominant was the first round for the blue corner that two of the three judges scored the round a 10-8.
The South African gassed out in the second though, landing three times fewer significant strikes than the 29-year-old did. Unfortunately for Till, he didn’t have the chance to even the scorecards. ‘Stillknocks’ forcefully took ‘The Gorilla’ down midway through the final round and quickly submitted the Liverpudlian.
After leaving the Octagon, Till reportedly told Buffer that he’d torn his ACL in the fight. This could explain his problem with takedown defence. He had the same injury in his last outing with Derek Brunson and he struggled with staying on his feet in that fight as well.
But some have suggested a move back down to welterweight could be the way forward. With the injuries and maybe even some time away from the sport, it could be sometime before we see him compete again.
Main event controversy
Those are three words no promoter ever wants to see. This main event has been twisting and turning for weeks now, so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that it ended the way it did.
This fight was supposed to be a three-round co-main event, with Jiri Prochazka v Glover Teixeira as the main event. But because of an injury to Prochazka and Teixeira saying he wouldn’t have enough time to prepare for Ankalaev, this became the main event.
The fight was dull. Round one, they were mainly trying to gauge each other’s range and timing. Rounds two and three is where the calf kicks from Blachowicz really did damage. They forced the Russian to switch stances multiple times. There were even points where Ankalaev was struggling to stand. But, after one significant blow to the leg, the Dagestani closed the distance in an attempt to stop the barrage.
From then he turned it, almost entirely, into a wrestling match. Both men had only prepared for a three round fight, but Ankalaev didn’t tire like his opponent did. He kept the pressure up, landing multiple takedowns and controlling top position.
His efforts in the latter half of the fight, he felt, justified his hand being raised.The judges thought otherwise. All three of them scored the fight differently, with one in favour of Ankalaev, one in favour of Blachowicz, and one going for a draw. So the belt is still vacant.
39-year-old Blachowicz said after the fight he felt he didn’t do enough to win whereas Ankalaev said: “I’m not sure I’m going to fight for this organisation again.”
The immediate reaction of fans was confusion, and that the UFC would run this fight back at a later date. But no. They threw a massive curveball by booking Glover Teixeira v Jamahal Hill for the title at UFC 283, in Brazil.
So after four different fighters had been scheduled to fight for the light heavyweight crown, not one of them left Vegas with it. And now we have a fifth contender in Hill who was supposed to be fighting Anthony Smith in March, 2023. Nobody could have seen this coming.