Rivalries: Paddy Pimblett

Paddy Pimblett if nothing else gives the Ultimate Fighting Championship one more lightning rod with which to spur interest.

The 29-year-old Englishman signed with the organization in 2021, debuted to much fanfare and proceeded to rattle off five consecutive wins inside the Octagon. Still on the outskirts of contention in the lightweight division, Pimblett figures to play a prominent role in the UFC’s plans in the days, months and years ahead. He last appeared at UFC 296, where he put in a workmanlike effort and outpointed “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 winner Tony Ferguson to a unanimous decision on Dec. 16.

As Pimblett awaits word from matchmakers on his first assignment of 2024, a look at a few of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Kevin Petshi

Pimblett struck gold for the first time as a pro with the Full Contact Contender featherweight championship, as he disposed of “The Machine Gun” with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their FCC 12 headliner on March 28, 2015 at Macron Stadium in Bolton, England. The previously unbeaten Petshi bowed out 1:56 into Round 2. Pimblett wore down the Atch Academy export with persistence and pace, made his way to the back in the second round and secured his position with a body triangle. He then laced his arms into position, tightened his squeeze and forced the tap. It was the first rear-naked choke submission of his career.

Nad Narimani

Expertly timed power punches and suffocating pressure brought the “Smiler” a unanimous decision against Pimblett, as he laid claim to the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight title in the CW 82 main event on April 1, 2017 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. Scores were 48-47, 49-46 and 50-45. A punishing right hand tipped Narimani’s spear across the 25-minute encounter. Pimblett failed to optimize his height advantage and struggled to control range with his jab and kicks, and when he attempted to change course with takedowns, he was met with an effective sprawl and accompanying punches to the head. The takedowns he did complete were often answered by reversals. Narimani benefitted from the slow pace he imposed and managed to grind his way to promotional gold at 145 pounds before bolting for the UFC. Pimblett’s reign—which began with a first-round technical knockout of Johnny Frachey at CW 78—lasted all of 203 days.

Soren Bak

The once-beaten Dane overcame a harrowing start, maintained his composure in the face of considerable adversity and rallied for a unanimous decision over Pimblett in the CW 96 headliner on Sept. 1, 2018 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. Bak swept the scorecards with 48-44, 48-45 and 48-46 marks from the cageside judges, then walked out of the cage with the Cage Warriors lightweight title strapped to his waist. Pimblett was sharp in the first round, where he threatened “The True Viking” with a tight rear-naked choke that might have drawn a white flag from a lesser man. Bak withstood his opponent’s advances and forced him to dig deeper into his bag of tricks. Pimblett eventually ran out of gas after getting outstruck in extended sequences and being drawn into a series of clinches. Bak made his closing argument late in the fifth round, as he climbed to full mount and hammered his visibly fatigued adversary with punches.

Jared Gordon

Pimblett passed what was at the time his stiffest test to date inside the Octagon, albeit not in convincing fashion, as he took a contentious unanimous decision from Jared Gordon in the UFC 282 co-main event on Dec. 10, 2022 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All three judges—Douglas Crosby, Chris Lee and Ron McCarthy—struck 29-28 scorecards for the victor. Gordon did not shy away from the considerable hype surrounding his charismatic counterpart. The Kill Cliff Fight Club rep blasted Pimblett with left hooks throughout the fight, attacked his lead leg with sharp kicks and crowded him in the clinch. It was not enough to spring the upset. Pimblett performed well in open space, where he let fly with sweeping hooks and leg kicks of his own. Gordon chewed up clock with his commitment to the clinch in the third round but allowed the Next Generation MMA star to break free late in the period and eventually attach himself to the back. The verdict was widely panned.

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