Paddy Pimblett and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 282

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIDecember 11, 2022

Paddy Pimblett and the Real Winners and Losers from UFC 282

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: Paddy Pimblett of England walks out towards the Octagon prior to facing Jared Gordon in a lightweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)
    Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC

    Last month of the year. Last pay-per-view show of the year.

    But 2022 didn't go down without a fight.

    The UFC pulled into a sold-out T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for a thrown-together December extravaganza whose initial main event was scuttled by an injury to a reigning champion and whose 14-bout lineup was trimmed to 12 by separate visa and medical issues.

    Nevertheless, UFC 282 ultimately went off with a vacant light heavyweight title bout matching ex-champ Jan Blachowicz and surging contender Magomed Ankalaev, who'd arrived with nine straight wins since a loss in his debut with the promotion in 2018.

    It was the lone championship contest on a show that was co-headlined by a lightweight three-rounder matching UK-based sensation Paddy Pimblett and veteran Jared Gordon, who'd won seven of 11 fights in the Octagon since arriving in 2017.

    The PPV show was produced by ESPN+, and the B/R combat sports team was in place to take it all in and compile a definitive list of the event's real winners and losers. Scroll through to get our reactions and drop a take or two of your own in the comments section.

Loser: Getting the Numbers Right

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: Magomed Ankalaev of Russia reacts after his split draw decision against Jan Blachowicz of Poland in their UFC light heavyweight championship fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    They saved the worst—arguably in terms of excitement but surely when it comes to judging—for last.

    Light heavyweights Jan Błachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev were intermittently violent and more often monotonous across a 25-minute main event, but it certainly seemed as if the fourth-ranked Russian had done at least enough to win himself the vacant 205-pound championship.

    But the guys with the cage-side pencils simply didn't agree.

    Or not enough of them anyway.

    Derek Cleary did score three rounds in Ankalaev's favor and gave him a two-point nod in the fifth to make it 48-46. However, he was negated by a 48-47 in Błachowicz's direction from Mike Bell and a dead-even 47-47 from Sal D'Amato—who gave three rounds to Błachowicz but a 10-8 to Ankalaev in the fifth—to provide just the fifth draw in UFC title-fight history.

    B/R's card had it 49-46, or four rounds to one, for Ankalaev, giving him the first, third, fourth and fifth.

    And not surprisingly, Ankalaev wasn't at all pleased about not getting a belt. As it turns out neither was Błachowicz, who cut into his foe's post-fight interview and said Ankalaev had earned it.

    "I don't know what to say. I won that fight," Ankalaev said. "Why didn't I get my belt? I don't know what to say. I can't choose the judges for the fight that are sitting over here, but I won this fight. I don't know if I'm going to fight with this organization again because I don't know what just happened."

    What happened, at the very least, was a statistical rout.

    Ankalaev had a 78-55 edge in significant strikes, a 191-79 margin in overall strikes and better than 11 minutes of control time against Błachowicz, who compromised both his opponent's legs with hard calf kicks but was never able to land anything of significance with his fists.

    Ankalaev responded to the leg kicks with takedowns in the final two rounds and appeared on the verge of a finish in the fifth after he'd isolated a grounded Błachowicz's right arm and bombarded him with strikes to the face.

    Referee Marc Goddard never intervened, though, and left the result to the judges, who'd not had to decide the first 10 fights thanks to six KOs and four submissions but were called into question in each of the two that did go to decisions.

    "It does not matter if I felt pain. I did everything I needed to get this victory," Ankalaev said. "I always know what I do to adjust. I don't know what you want me to say. Maybe we'll come back, and we'll take what's ours."

Winner: Grinding One Out

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: (R-L) Jared Gordon punches Paddy Pimblett of England in a lightweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC)
    Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC

    Paddy Pimblett followed his usual post-fight script.

    He waved his arms.

    He screamed, "Who's a hype train? Who's a f---ing hype train?" into the microphone.

    But even he must've known just how close he came to being on the other side.

    The brash Englishman ground through three close rounds with rugged lightweight veteran Jared Gordon and ultimately earned 29-28 verdicts on all three scorecards to escape with a unanimous decision.

    It was the first time in four UFC fights that he heard a final horn after scoring a KO and two submissions across one appearance in 2021 and two more earlier in 2022.

    Judges Doug Crosby and Ron McCarthy awarded him the first and second rounds against Gordon, while Chris Lee saw him superior in Rounds 2 and 3. B/R's card agreed with the majority and gave the first two rounds to Pimblett.

    "That wasn't close," he said. "I won the first two rounds, and then I coasted in the third. I knew for a fact that I won the first two rounds, but Jared is a tough motherf---er."

    Indeed, though the 34-year-old New Yorker was slower and less flashy than his chatty counterpart, Gordon scored frequently in the first round with left-hand shots that snuck in over Pimblett's low guard.

    The same was true in the second as well, and Pimblett added to it by getting Gordon to the ground and briefly pursuing a choke submission.

    Gordon rallied well in the third, however, and was able to control distance and get Pimblett to the floor, forcing the phenom to defend against the fence and putting the final outcome in doubt. In fact, ESPN blow-by-blow man Jon Anik suggested he thought Gordon had done enough to win the first and third rounds.

    Pimblett said afterward that he may have broken his right foot with a kick in the first round and would soon have it X-rayed to confirm the extent of the damage.

Loser: Regaining Top-Tier Mojo

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: Darren Till of England reacts after being defeated via submission by Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa in a middleweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC)
    Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC

    Suddenly, the end seems near for Darren Till.

    The popular English welterweight was 17-0-1 as a pro and near the top of the UFC world upon mounting a challenge to then-champ Tyron Woodley in 2018, a fight he ultimately lost by second-round submission.

    And though he's maintained a world ranking across two divisions ever since the loss in the main event at UFC 228, the mojo that led him to the brink of superstardom has never returned.

    Till was stopped in two rounds by Jorge Masvidal in his follow-up to the title loss six months later and had managed just one win in three subsequent bouts heading into Saturday's main card duel with streaking South African middleweight Dricus Du Plessis.

    Till, at No. 10, arrived four slots ahead of Du Plessis but never showed any real dominance, instead finding himself on the verge of a stoppage loss as his opponent racked up an 82-9 edge in strikes. He rallied in the second round as Du Plessis tried to recoup an emptied gas tank but was on the short end again in the third with Du Plessis again pressing the action.

    The end came at the midway point of the round as Du Plessis landed a punch, hit Till with a knee to the midsection and went for a takedown that instantly got Till to the floor. He quickly got to his opponent's back and cinched in the rear-naked choke that drew a tap at 2:43.

    ESPN's Daniel Cormier said Till, 29, claimed he'd torn an ACL on the way out of the cage. He was sidelined by a similar injury earlier in his career and hadn't fought since losing by third-round submission to Derek Brunson in September 2021.

    "In the third round it comes down to that dog," Du Plessis said. "When we get to that last round, we're always going to win it. I knew the takedown was there. It was easy. And I could feel the difference in weight of my frame. I was very top heavy on him."

Winner: Beating the Masses

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Ilia Topuria reacts after defeating Bryce Mitchell by submission during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC)
    Carmen Mandato/Zuffa LLC

    Ilia Topuria walked to the cage hearing boos from a crowd strongly backing Bryce Mitchell.

    Then, as the fight began, he heard the requisite "USA, USA" chant that's a UFC staple almost every time an American is in with a foreigner—who, in Topuria's case, was born in Germany and is based in Spain.

    But it didn't last long. And when it was over, Topuria wondered why.

    "No one is screaming now," the unbeaten featherweight said. "What happened?"

    What happened, in a couple of words, was Topuria himself.

    The 25-year-old turned in a spectacular performance in the highest-profile match of his career, piecing up his ninth-ranked foe with punches and ultimately beating him at his own ground game on the way to a second-round submission victory.

    "I knew that I was better than him on the ground, in standup, anywhere," said Topuria, now 13-0 as a pro and 5-0 in the UFC.

    Mitchell was bloody and looked exhausted following a frenetic first round, then found himself on his back after Topuria stuffed a takedown and quickly flipped him to the mat. He pursued the positional advantage and soon after locked in the arm triangle that ended things at 3:10.

    "The game plan was to strike with him," Topuria said, "but at the end, I had to submit him because I had the advantage."

Winner: Teenage Dreaming

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    He's just a kid. But Raul Rosas Jr. has already made history.

    The New Mexico native became the youngest fighter in the promotion's history at 18 years, two months old and made it look as if he'll be there awhile with a first-round submission finish of 29-year-old veteran Jay Perrin.

    Rosas transitioned from his senior year of high school to home schooling to further his career and had five fights in the Mexico-based Ultimate Warrior Challenge promotion before scoring a contract with a win on Dana White's Contender Series in September.

    His appearance Saturday eclipsed the long-standing record of Sean Daugherty, who debuted at 18 years, three months in 1994 but lost both his fights in the Octagon.

    That doesn't look like the future arc for Rosas, who got Perrin to the mat after 40 seconds, seized his back after a minute and pursued a submission before finally snaking his right arm around Perrin's chin for the neck crank that ended things at 2:44.

    "You want to talk about potential, this is about as good as it gets for a UFC debut," Joe Rogan said from cage-side. "Flawless."

    And once the ESPN analyst arrived for the post-fight interview, Rosas showed more chops.

    "That's worth 50 G's, Dana," he yelled. "C'mon, I need to buy my mother a minivan to give me a ride to the (Performance Institute)."

    The win was Rosas' fifth by submission alongside one KO and a decision.

    "Right now I'm just living the dream," he said. "No nerves. No pressure. I'm doing what I love to do."

Loser: Former Mid-Card Phenoms

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    All of a sudden, it's been a long two years for Joaquin Buckley.

    The UFC's flavor of the month after a KO for the ages on a Fight Night show in October 2020, he fell to 4-3 in seven fights since and lost for the second straight time—this time via second-round KO to former training partner and 15th-ranked middleweight Chris Curtis in a scheduled three-rounder.

    Now 28, Buckley had a strong first round and continued faring well into the second thanks to superior pressure and accuracy, but he was dumped with a left hook as Curtis countered a body kick and unleashed a subsequent flurry of eight ground strikes to draw a stop at 2:49.

    "Joaquin's really fast and really explosive, and I knew I wasn't going to beat him on speed," Curtis said. "But timing beats speed."

    It's a similar skidding story for Philadelphia heavyweight Chris Daukaus.

    The former police officer scored four KOs in barely more than eight minutes to get his UFC run underway across 2020 and 2021, but 260-plus-pound slugger Jairzinho Rozenstruik wasn't having it on Saturday, beating his foe down in just 23 seconds to stretch Daukaus' losing streak, all by KO, to three in a row.

    Daukaus was stung badly by a hard left jab, knocked loopy by a jumping knee and finished off by a lunging left hook that forced the hand of referee Mark Smith. He was previously beaten in one round by Derrick Lewis and two rounds by Curtis Blaydes.

    "We changed a lot of things in training," Rozenstruik said. "This is the result."

Winner: Rediscovering Gold

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: (R-L) Edmen Shahbazyan punches Dalcha Lungiambula of the Congo in a middleweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Shortly after exiting his teens, Edmen Shahbazyan was already a UFC golden boy.

    He was a training disciple of promotional trailblazer Ronda Rousey, a winner on both Dana White's Contender Series and The Ultimate Fighter and went on to score three more victories, all in a half-round or less, to begin his octagonal career.

    Then it went south. For roughly three years.

    Three straight losses (two KOs, one decision) had built up since Shahbazyan's most recent victory in November 2019.

    But a training camp move from California to Las Vegas paid immediate dividends with a second-round KO of Dalcha Lungiambula that drew raves from Rogan.

    Still just 25, Shahbazyan is now 12-3 with 11 finishes, 10 by KO and one submission.

    "That was a very good rebuilding performance," Rogan said.

    Shahbazyan landed a decisive blow in the form of a jumping right knee and pounded his retreating opponent with a follow-up volley of punches, another knee and several ground strikes before Lungiambula was rescued at 4:41 of the second.

    "It feels amazing. I'm at a loss for words," he said.

    "I'm glad I took the time off to improve. I guess I'm 'Vegas Edmen' now. We're gonna keep climbing, getting better. This is just the beginning."

Winner: Featherweight Welcome Wagon

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: (R-L) Billy Quarantillo punches Alexander Hernandez in a featherweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Alexander Hernandez was the pre-fight story.

    The 30-year-old dropped to 145 pounds to begin the second phase of his UFC career after going 5-4 through nine fights at 155 pounds since 2018.

    And after his first five featherweight minutes against Billy Quarantillo ended with his foe stumbling to his corner, leaking from a cut over his left eye, all seemed well.

    Until it didn't.

    Instead of continuing to flex his trimmed-down muscle against a dinged-up opponent, Hernandez found himself on the receiving end of several concussive blows that left him reeling along the fence as Quarantillo, known for his limitless gas tank, poured it on.

    The combinations continued unabated as a gassed-out Hernandez floundered and ultimately prompted referee Chris Tognoni to step in at 4:30 of the second.

    It was the rugged Quarantillo's 13th finish—eight by KO, five by submission—in 17 career wins and boosted his UFC record to 5-2 since he graduated from Dana White's Contender Series in 2019.

    "I knew he was going to bring that dog out of me," Quarantillo said. "He was a tough dude, but I knew if he just kept pushing me, it would come out of me, and I'd get to him."

Full Card Results

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    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 10: (L-R) Cameron Saaiman of South Africa punches Steven Koslow in a bantamweight fight during the UFC 282 event at T-Mobile Arena on December 10, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
    Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

    Main Card

    Jan Błachowicz drew with Magomed Ankalaev (48-47, 46-48, 47-47)

    Paddy Pimblett def. Jared Gordon by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

    Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Alex Morono by KO (punches), 2:29, Round 3

    Dricus Du Plessis def. Darren Till by submission (neck crank), 2:43, Round 3

    Ilia Topuria def. Bryce Mitchell by submission (arm triangle), 3:10, Round 2

    Preliminary Card

    Raul Rosas Jr. def. Jay Perrin by submission (neck crank), 2:44, Round 1

    Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Chris Daukaus by KO (punch), 0:23, Round 1

    Edmen Shahbazyan def. Dalcha Lungiambula by KO (punches), 4:41, Round 2

    Chris Curtis def. Joaquin Buckley by KO (punches), 2:49, Round 2

    Early Preliminary Card

    Billy Quarantillo def. Alexander Hernandez by KO (punches), 4:30, Round 2

    TJ Brown def. Erik Silva by submission (arm triangle), 3:41, Round 3

    Cameron Saaiman def. Steven Koslow by KO (punches), 4:13, Round 3