The 5 Best Opponents for Paddy Pimblett's Next Fight
Paddy Pimblett, one of the brightest young stars in MMA, is now 4-0 in the UFC's Octagon. At a glance, that looks like the recipe for a big step up in competition, but it might not be that simple.
Liverpool's Pimblett, 27, returned to action in the co-main event of UFC 282 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, taking on New Jersey's Jared Gordon at lightweight. The Brit ultimately left the cage with a unanimous-decision win, but as a quick scroll through social media will surely reveal to you, it was an extremely controversial verdict.
The word "robbery" has even been thrown around, and while that word has been overused to the point of total meaninglessness in MMA, it may actually apply here.
Gordon simply out-fought Pimblett over three rounds, not only in the eyes of sober viewers everywhere, but in terms of the stats.
All that to say that, while Pimblett remains unbeaten in the UFC, there is less reason than ever to believe he can compete with the lightweight division's top dogs.
That seemingly leaves the UFC matchmakers with two options. The first is to continue to build him up slowly amid increasing accusations of protecting him with safe matchmaking. The second is to throw him to the wolves and risk losing a legitimate pay-per-view attraction to a tough loss.
There doesn't seem to be a perfect solution, but here are a few options UFC brass could consider for Pimblett's next move.
One obvious option for Pimblett after UFC 282 is a rematch with Gordon.
As we covered above, Gordon was the more successful man in their fight as far as the stats are concerned, and the victor in the eyes of most fans. There are definitely grounds for a do-over.
It's an opportunity that Gordon would definitely take. He would surely like an opportunity for vindication. Pimblett could also benefit from a rematch, as it would give him an opportunity to silence his increasingly enthusiastic naysayers.
But if we're being honest, this seems like the kind of fight the UFC is just hoping we'll all forget. They'll most likely move on from it as soon as possible, probably by booking Pimblett for a main card spot at UFC 286 this March in London.
Pimblett and Ilia Topuria are currently separated by a weight class—the Brit fights at lightweight and the Georgian-Spaniard at featherweight—but this could be the fight to make after UFC 282.
Both men were in action at the event, with Pimblett beating Gordon in the co-main event, and Topuria submitting the formerly unbeaten Bryce Mitchell earlier on the main card.
The two rising stars have been trading trash talk since Pimblett arrived in the UFC, and fired their latest verbal volleys at each other at the card's pre-fight press conference.
This is a legitimate grudge match between two streaking finishers, and if Topuria is willing to hike up to lightweight and give up a pretty substantial size disadvantage, it's going to be a very easy sell for the UFC.
Then again, it doesn't make a ton of sense from a rankings standpoint, as Pimblett still isn't ranked at lightweight, and Topuria was already the No. 14-ranked featherweight before Saturday.
After UFC 282, Topuria would also be a gargantuan favorite of Pimblett. Some might even call it an unfair fight.
If the UFC decides Pimblett is ready for a Top 15 opponent—which is still very much up for debate—one option is Brazilian finisher Renato Moicano.
Moicano, who spent the bulk of his career down at featherweight, has recently found new life as a lightweight, going 4-2 in 6 fights in the division to earn the No. 13 spot in its rankings.
He hasn't just been getting results, either. The Brazilian really seems to be catching on with fans, thanks in large part to a fiery post-fight speech after his recent submission win over Brad Riddell.
That makes him a solid dance partner for Pimblett, who is clearly on track to become one of the UFC's biggest stars.
It would be a very tough fight for the Brit—he would most likely lose it—but a win would send him careening into the upper reaches of the lightweight rankings, and erase the memory of his controversial win on Saturday.
It's fun to think about giving Pimblett a ranked opponent, but the truth is, even after four wins in the Octagon, he still hasn't really earned that opportunity, and seemingly isn't ready to mix it up with the top dogs anyway. So there's a very real chance the UFC may give him yet another unranked foe.
If that's the case, one interesting option is Nebraska's Grant Dawson.
Dawson is one of the hottest prospects in the lightweight division right now, with a 19-1-1 record, and seven wins since he joined the UFC—including his own stoppage of Gordon. To be frank, he is probably more deserving of a ranked foe than Pimblett is, but the American would undoubtedly settle for the chance to take some of the Brit's hype.
It's another tough fight for Pimblett, but it's the kind of test he will need to pass if he hopes to assert himself as a legitimate contender.
The UFC's matchmaking team could also decide to stick to the current plan for Pimblett: bringing him along slowly against decent but inherently beatable opposition.
In that event, they may call upon an aging star like Clay Guida to fight the Brit.
Guida has been in the UFC forever, and over the years, has battled many of the best lightweights in the world—and beaten some.
Today, he's definitely in the twilight of his career, but after a split-decision win over Scott Holtzman last weekend in Orlando, he is once again in the win column, and ready for a nice match-up.
A fight with Pimblett would give him a chance to turn back the clock with a win over a rising star, while Pimblett would be in a position to strengthen his resume with a win over one of the division's best-respected veterans, and again, distance himself from his controversial win over Gordon.
There's a lot to be gained for both guys, and it would probably be fun while it lasted.