Love him or hate him, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett is a budding superstar in the lightweight division with back-to-back first-round finishes in the UFC.
Pimblett’s superstardom has less to do with his talent and more to do with his marketability. He is fantastic on the microphone, has a polarizing personality, and knows how to sell fights. He’ll look to back up his talk Saturday night against Jordan “The Monkey King” Leavitt.
Leavitt, himself, is gaining some internet fame with his post-fight celebration — doing the splits in the center of the cage and bouncing up and down. Similar to Paddy, Leavitt is riding a two-fight win streak into Saturday, bringing his UFC record to 3-1.
Paddy opened as a respectable favorite over Leavitt and has steadily maintained the same odds throughout the week. But, given his following, I expect him to close higher than his current tag.
The Pimblett we’ve seen in the UFC is not quite the same fighter that came over from Cage Warriors. In Cage Warriors, Pimblett was a solid wrestler with a strong grappling game and slick submissions. He still fought with panache and aggression but was more strategic in the cage. In both of his UFC fights, though, Pimblett has fought like he only has three minutes to end the fight. As soon as his fights have started, Pimblett has taken the center of the octagon with a wide and bouncy orthodox stance. He keeps his hands low and chin high, and air of extreme confidence. Then, he throws wild but powerful strikes to either drop his foe or close distance.
If he doesn’t get the flash knockout, Paddy will look to clinch up, drag his opponent to the mat with raw aggression rather than technique, and scramble to the back to look for a choke. His style is as exciting as his personality but incredibly risky. With such low hands and a high chin, Pimblett is hittable and droppable once he faces someone with solid striking. His dangerous grappling is a safer path to victory than his striking, but he still uses it aggressively. Pimblett seems to be in such a rush to end the fight that he relies on his size advantage and ability to win the scramble rather than securing a better position.
Even though he has back-to-back first-round finishes, I don’t think we’ve seen the best Paddy in the UFC yet. Once he fights with more patience, lets the fight come to him, and then attacks, we’ll see the best Pimblett. On the other hand, the holes in his game are still there, so I expect him to hit some rough patches sooner rather than later as well.
Leavitt actually has a similar fight style to Pimblett. He is a strong wrestler who has surprising strength in his takedowns. Given the opportunity, Leavitt is even able to land a slam takedown which takes fundamental knowledge and natural strength. Then, once the fight gets to the mat, Leavitt has shown strong BJJ with an affinity for a triangle choke. On the feet, he is bouncy and athletic, working in and out of the pocket. But, his offensive striking is more stick’n move, so it rarely deters fighters from walking him down and putting him on his back foot.
Recently, Leavitt has shown an improved counter game, specifically checking the leg kick and landing a straight cross down the barrel. But, ultimately, his striking leaves something to be desired. He looks best against opponents who fight with a lower volume on the feet, so Leavitt can time his entries without having to set them up himself. But, once an opponent pressures, Leavitt can get caught on his bike for long periods at a time. His awkward style and strong grappling make him an interesting fighter, but he’ll need to evolve his standup if he wants to climb the division.
This fight should be an easy win for Pimblett if he avoids the catastrophic mistake. Pimblett has the pressure style that gives Leavitt fits, strikes with more power and volume, and, I feel, is the better grappler. However, Pimblett’s tendency to fight for the quick finish can put him in bad spots, and Leavitt tends to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes.
That being said, I like Pimblett to get the win in London and rock the world on the microphone again. I prefer him in parlays, but, as a straight play, I like Pimblett to find a late-round submission.
Prediction: Pimblett to win by submission (-120 odds at MyBookie)
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.