Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated’s newest look at MMA. Every week, this column will offer insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Paddy Pimblett Puts the Lightweight Division on Notice
Paddy Pimblett introduced himself to the fight world this past Saturday in Las Vegas. And now that he has arrived, he plans on staying.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Pimblett, speaking from back home in Liverpool, England. “I always knew my UFC debut would go like that, that I’d be the one getting spoken about. For me, it’s vindication. I’m proving all the doubters wrong, and I’m proving all the people that believe in me right.”
Saturday’s UFC card saw Pimblett (17–3) obliterate Luigi Vendramini, viciously knocking him out with 35 seconds remaining in the opening round. The victory put the entire lightweight division on notice, as well as earned Pimblett a “Performance of the Night” honor.
“I was just so happy he hit his absolute best shot, and it didn’t affect me at all,” says Pimblett. “When I started hitting him with big shots, it was the other way around. I just turned it up another level and I absolutely pushed the pace on him, and I knew he wouldn’t be able to get out of that first round.”
A relatively unknown fighter—Pimblett currently does not even have a Wikipedia page—life is about to drastically change for the man nicknamed “Paddy the Baddy.”
The 26-year-old British sensation sports a haircut that is reminiscent of The Beatles, which is fitting as the violence he creates in the cage is lyrical. His explosiveness is complemented by his boyish charm—he was proud to share that he celebrated his first UFC victory with a combination of U.S. delicacies that included Popeye’s, Shake Shack and Dairy Queen. And based on his recent work, there is every reason to believe he possesses the skill needed to become the newest face of the UFC.
“This is my opportunity to show I am the new breed of the UFC,” says Pimblett. “I’m the one coming to take over. It’s been absolutely wild this past week, and it’s even going to get bigger and better. I improve with every fight, so every single time you see me, I’ll be even more improved.”
In order to climb to the top of the lightweight division, Pimblett will have his hands full. It is one of the deepest and most versatile divisions in all of MMA, led by champion Charles Oliveira and top contender Dustin Poirier. But Pimblett has always embraced a challenge, and he is eager to prove himself against ranked opponents.
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“I’ll take it in stride,” says Pimblett. “I doubt they’ll give me a top-15 opponent next, but I want a better contract before I start fighting top-15 opponents, anyway. So get this contract out of the way and make a performance bonus every single fight. That’s what I’m coming to do—take that $50K bonus. As everyone knows, MMA fighters aren’t the highest-paid lads, so every single fight I’m coming for that bonus.”
Articulate in his own distinct and confident manner, Pimblett offered a message to those who do not believe in him.
“F--- them,” says Pimblett. “Doubt me all you want. It won’t change my brain or my confidence, and it won’t change what’s coming. People’s doubt just pushes me forward. Two big things I really enjoy doing are proving my doubters wrong and proving that the people who believed in me were right all along. That’s what I’ll continue to do as I become a name and a face of the UFC.”
Anderson Silva enters boxing bout against Tito Ortiz as massive favorite
As difficult as it was for fans to watch Tyron Woodley lose his boxing match against Jake Paul, it would be even more humbling to have to watch the great Anderson Silva be defeated by Tito Ortiz.
Silva and Ortiz meet this Saturday in the co-main event of the card headlined by Evander Holyfield–Vitor Belfort, which now also includes a guest commentary spot from former U.S. President Donald Trump. Perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, 46-year-old Silva is no longer as explosive or dynamic as he once was. But he looked impressive in his most recent bout, which took place in June with a victory against Julio César Chávez Jr. While Chávez is no longer even close to his prime, he is a legitimate boxer and won the WBC middleweight title a decade ago. This marks the professional boxing debut for Ortiz, also 46, so it is a matchup that favors Silva.
The main event is Belfort vs. Holyfield, a certifiable boxing legend. It will be hard not to cringe whenever Holyfield takes a shot to the head, especially considering the recent footage of Holyfield looking like a shell of his former self.
Normally, I would lean toward Holyfield winning the fight, mainly because the constant we see in all these MMA turned boxer fights is that the MMA fighter’s hesitancy becomes his kryptonite. That is the blueprint for these boxers to line up their opponents and pick them apart. In this case, however, Holyfield should not be fighting. This should be a victory for Belfort, hopefully one that isn’t too ugly.
The Pick ’Em Section
This is a rare off-week for the MMA world. After a decent week of picks last weekend, I’m excited to get over the .500 mark soon.
Last week: 3–2
Current record: 13–14
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