Now 27 years old, 1-0 in the UFC with a first-round finish, and with possibly the best post-fight interview of 2021, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett has a lot of hype behind him entering his second UFC fight on Saturday. Rodrigo “Kazula” Vargas, 36, is 12-4 as a pro and 1-2 in the UFC. His sole win was a decision his last time out.
Despite being only his second UFC fight, Pimblett is the largest favorite on the card.
- Pimblett: -450
- Vargas: +325
In his debut, Pimblett set social media on fire. He was in one of the most exciting rounds of the year, trading heavy blows, disregarding defense, and, eventually, winning by knockout. Then, he amplified his hype by dazzling on the microphone like only he can do. Interestingly, though, the style we saw in his debut is not his typical fight strategy. Yes, Pimblett has decent striking, solid power, and often pressures quickly. But, his traditional path to victory is not a blow for blow brawl, but, rather, grappling. Pimblett has several early finishes outside the UFC. In these fights, he often takes the center of the cage immediately, stalks forward to cut off the cage, exchanges just enough heavy strikes to overwhelm his opponent, closes the distance, and secures the takedown or clinch. From here, Pimblett is in his world; he will transition to the back and use his long arms to sneak under the chin for a choke finish. As long as he doesn’t fall in love with his hands and his sometimes high chin holds up to shots, Pimblett’s fan-friendly style should continue to be successful.
Vargas is in a tough spot here. He is a well-rounded fighter who is average in all areas: striking, grappling, volume, and cardio. He is the type of fighter that is a litmus test for unproven prospects because he can neutralize the prospects’ primary attack. However, other than being a test for prospects, Vargas does not have much offense himself. Since 2017, he is 3-3 and has only 1 finish despite facing non-UFC or low-level UFC talent. His typical path to victory is to outlast and out-volume his opponents on his way to a close decision. His striking is solid and varied, his defense is sound, and his offensive wrestling is good enough to hold opponents against the cage. However, his achilles heel is his defensive wrestling; he only stops 25% of takedown attempts. Once on the back, Vargas goes into survival mode and holds guard rather than going for submissions or trying to stand up.
Making this fight the matchup before the co-main event in London is no mistake. The UFC recognizes the blooming superstar that is Pimblett and they want to market him by giving him a winnable matchup in the limelight of his home country. I foresee Pimblett taking advantage of the opportunity and making quick work of Vargas. Pimblett rushes forward, unloads a heavy and wild combination, then takes the back en route to an early submission win.
Prediction: Pimblett by submission