The Paddy Pimblett hype train is still on the rails, but its pace has slowed to a crawl.
The Baddy from Liverpool, one of the most popular young fighters in MMA today, returned to action in the co-headlining attraction of Saturday night's UFC 282 card in Las Vegas, taking on New York's Jared Gordon.
It was viewed as the toughest test of the Brit's career after stoppage wins in his first three UFC bouts. And while he ultimately passed it with a unanimous-decision victory, the context of that result is impossible to ignore.
It was kind of bogus.
From an early vantage point, this fight looked like a layup for Pimblett. It was clear that he was the bigger, more powerful man in the cage. It seemed like he would have a speed advantage. He seemed to be the better grappler on paper.
And while he has shown some massive holes in his striking defense in previous fights, his opponent Gordon has never had much in the way of stopping power, so Pimblett's chances in a firefight looked good, too.
Even the crowd was behind the Brit, abandoning the U-S-A chants they had favored in earlier matchups on the card to shower him in cheers and pelt their countryman with boos.
With full respect for Gordon, who long ago proved himself to be a serviceable fighter, it really looked as though he had been brought in to lose.
But he fought a great fight. An excellent fight.
Within the first minute of the first round, he had cracked Pimblett with several sizzling left hooks, capitalizing on the Brit's defensive shortcomings with practiced efficiency. Commentators Joe Rogan and Daniel Cormier hummed nervously as it happened, sensing, like many viewers, that things could get bad for The Baddy in a blink.
While the Brit survived that opening stanza, he continued to eat big shots into Round 2, some of them pretty substantial. He counterbalanced that adversity with some brief patches of success on the mat but also found himself struggling with Gordon in that phase of the game—a worrying sign considering he was supposed to be the better grappler in the matchup.
In Round 3, it was more of the same: Gordon doing better work on the feet and the mat, and Pimblett hanging in there, seemingly a step behind wherever the fight went.
By the time the third round had ended, most fans and pundits on Twitter were in agreement that Gordon had won at least two rounds and should therefore win a decision should the fight go the distance.
But all three judges scored it for Pimblett, promoting immediate cries of "robbery" all over social media. We throw that word around a lot in MMA, to the point that it has lost a lot of its meaning, but in the case, it might be the best word to describe the situation.
Just look at the post-fight stats.
Gordon landed slightly more total strikes (100 to 97) and had a much better accuracy rate (57 to 40 percent) regarding significant strikes. He had also completed three of six takedown attempts, which he used to wrack up 6:28 of control time. Meanwhile, Pimblett failed on all three of his attempts and only controlled 0:35 of action on the mat.
The thousands of Pimblett fans in Las Vegas were clearly happy to hear their man announced as the winner, but the truth is that there was little merit to the Brit's victory and that the outcome will only hurt him going forward.
Contrary to Pimblett's massive popularity, there have always been legitimate questions about his ceiling. He's clearly capable of beating lower-level fighters, but after three losses outside the UFC, and an early scare in his promotional debut against Luigi Vendramini, there has been plenty of reason to doubt he has the skill to compete with the best of the best.
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An impressive stoppage win over a veteran like Gordon would have done a lot to dispel those doubts. A convincing decision victory might have been even more valuable in that regard.
Instead, we watched Pimblett get out-fought for three rounds and walk away with a win nonetheless. That outcome will only give credence to his naysayers' arguments and embolden his haters. It also puts the UFC's matchmakers in a tough spot.
The Brit is now 4-0 in the promotion, which would ordinarily warrant a step up to the next level, but after UFC 282, there's less reason than ever to believe he's ready for that level.
One way or the other, he will need a seriously impressive performance in his next fight if he intends to get his hype train back up to full speed.