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Hot Tweets: Darren Till’s future, Paddy Pimblett’s debut, and Triller Fight Club’s latest offering

UFC Fight Night: Brunson v Till Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Hello everyone! It’s a rare weekend off for major MMA, but last weekend the UFC put on one of their better Fight Night cards in a while and we’ve still got Triller’s MMA-boxing event this weekend. So, let’s talk about Derek Brunson beating Darren Till, Paddy Pimblett’s UFC debut, and the ethical implications of Triller Fight Club.

Where does Darren Till go from here?

I wrote about Darren Till last week and his fight with Derek Brunson only reinforced everything I thought then: Darren Till isn’t actually very good but he continues to remain relevant through sheer force of personality.

Just look at Till’s resume. Before he gets to the UFC, he’s an undefeated prospect, but five of those wins were over people who had never won an MMA fight. He then jumps to the UFC and from there, he draws with Nicolas Dalby, beats a few decent fighters and then gets fast-tracked to a title shot by knocking out a faded Donald Cerrone and getting a bad decision over Stephen Thompson. Since then, he’s lost four of five and his lone win was another questionable decision over Kelvin Gastelum, a man who himself is not shining brightly in the middleweight division.

The fact that Darren Till hasn’t been completely written off already, despite being obliterated by Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal is a testament to how compelling a character he is. But ultimately, you cannot manifest greatness by speaking it into existence. Till is a striker, and he’s not bad at it, but he’s far from undeniable, and at middleweight his punches seem less effective than at welterweight. Add in the fact that he’s not the most durable fighter in the world and Till’s title prospects seem pretty slim to me.

If I was managing Till, I would encourage him to take the same track I suggested for Kevin Lee: stop fighting good people. Unlike with guys like Lee and Gastelum, I’m not confident Till can safely make 170 anymore but he can at least do himself a favor by fighting unranked opposition and putting together a win streak. Hell, just look at Charles Oliveira. When he moved up to lightweight, he almost immediately faced Paul Felder and got clobbered. Then he fought six guys in a row who were solid but unranked and beat them. It gave him time to build confidence, work on his game, and improve. Then he faced Kevin Lee and suddenly he’s in title contention. I still don’t know that Till has the underlying skills to follow that blueprint to a title, but that’s his best shot, in my opinion.

Paddy Pimblett

No. In fact I guarantee you he is not the next big thing, for one reason and one reason only: underneath it all, The Next Big Thing still has to be able to fight his ass off and The Baddy can’t do that.

Paddy Pimblett is a solid fighter but he’s not a great one. Great fighters, or soon to be great fighters, don’t damn near get chalked up by Luigi Vendramini. And that’s a shame because Pimblett checks every other box for future superstardom. He has a trademark look, he has mountains of personality, he’s got a great name, and the Scouser accent doesn’t hurt, but unfortunately, if you can’t become a champion or a legit top-ten guy, you aren’t going to be a bell cow star in the UFC.

Now, you might be saying, “He’s only 26!” and sure, that’s true. But the cold reality is that most champions in the UFC look like they’re going to be champions (or already are them) by the time they hit 26. They don’t struggle against unknown guys. There are certainly exceptions, and hell, maybe Pimblett proves me wrong, but I’d be pretty shocked.

The “Paddy Pimblett is the next Conor McGregor” train should’ve stopped the moment he lost to Nad Narimani in Cage Warriors (the same Nad Narimani who has lost his last two in the UFC, against decent-to-middling competition). At best, Pimblett can hope to join Darren Till on the Fail-Up All Stars but honestly, I think even that’s a stretch. He’s simply too defensively porous and not durable enough to withstand the woodchippers that are in the UFC featherweight and lightweight divisions.

The Next Big Thing

Speaking of The Next Big Thing, Khalil Rountree Jason-Bourned Modestas Bukauskas knee last weekend and of course, the pearl-clutchers came out in force to faint onto their divans about this latest technique that is too dangerous for cage fighting. Sometimes I look back at old commissions and wonder, “Why would they possibly think knees to the head of a grounded opponent are any worse than half the other violent stuff that happens?” and then I remember that FANS of the sport get all in a lather about stuff like this.

Oblique kicks are a good weapon in a fighters arsenal but it’s not like it is an impossible move to stop and I don’t see it becoming some hugely in vogue move because it’s hard to be highly effective with. The Rountree kick was obviously super effective but this attack has been around for a long time and it’s not like we’ve seen a rash of blown knees from it. I remember Brandon Vera using it on Keith Jardine and Jon Jones, of course, has been a big proponent of it, and yet, it hasn’t become this ubiquitous attack. When arguably the greatest fighter ever is using a move repeatedly and people aren’t taking it up in droves, it’s seems unlikely that Khalil Rountree will be the guy to bring it to popularity.

Jake Paul

Apparently Jake Paul isn’t going to fight Tyron Woodley again. Never could have seen that coming.

As far as what I make of it, I only have two real thoughts. The first is that I don’t have to care about Jake Paul’s next fight because he’s not fighting an MMA fighter (though I’m sure many will care and we will still cover it because, as far as I can tell, it’s only MMA fans who care about Jake Paul, not boxing fans). The second, and more to the point of the question, is that Paul is making his first bad promotional move.

Look, Tommy Fury isn’t a world beater by any stretch but he will be, by far, the most dangerous opponent Paul has ever faced, if for no other reason than Paul won’t have the physical advantages he has relied so heavily on in his career thus far. Paul’s last two opponents have been more than 10 years his senior and he has dwarfed them in the ring. Yes, Tyron Woodley is probably a superior athlete even pushing 40, but he was too small to navigate the range and Paul’s entire game plan basically hinged on staying away from Woodley. The one time he couldn’t do that, he damn near got his clock cleaned. Paul isn’t going to be able to jab his way to a decision against Fury. He’s going to have to eat some big shots and, frankly, I think he’s biting off more than he can chew.

Speaking of Paul-Woodley

There still isn’t an official (or unofficial) release here but given that Paul is moving on from Woodley, a guy he can feel confident he’d beat in a rematch, my guess is that the numbers fell short of the 1 million buy range.

Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler

I believe Justin Gaethje is the best lightweight in the world right now (Dustin Poirier is justifiably ranked No. 1 but I believe Gaethje wins a rematch), and I don’t think Michael Chandler is very good. Gaethje is going to kick Chandler’s leg to pieces before leveling him with a right hand.

Triller Fight Club

He looked so bad. So very, very bad. It shouldn’t be surprising, the man is nearly 60 years old, but still. What was originally a fun, guilty pleasure of an event where we’d all get to watch Anderson Silva carom shots off Tito Ortiz’s enormous noggin has turned into an extremely morally questionable event. I’m about as cynical of a fight fan as you’ll find but even I can’t really stomach this one. This fight should not be sanctioned, and in a fair and just world, the fact that any athletic commission would allow it to happen would lead to numerous inquiries into that commission.

The one possible saving grace for this is that Vitor Belfort is not a stupid man. Belfort has been around the fight game a long time and he knows how things work. Were he boxing Oscar De La Hoya this weekend, as was the original plan, Vitor probably would have come out guns blazing. But with the last-minute change to Holyfield, and with one of the primary talking points of the fight being “HOLY SH*T THIS IS TERRIBLE, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?”, I have hope that Vitor will read the room and not try to actually kill a 60-year old man in the ring. There’s a good chance that this turns into a glorified sparring session and while that’s not something people would be happy to pay $49.99 for, it’s by far the best outcome. Plus, if you buy the PPV you still get to see Anderson style on Tito and really, that’s worth the price of admission.

Also Triller Fight Club

Pretty soon, I’m thinking.

Look, I was a Triller Fight Club convert. When the Jake Paul-Ben Askren fight was first announced, I hated it. I thought it was stupid and irrelevant and not even fun. But slowly, as the fight was built, I got more into it until I was legitimately excited to see it. And then I went to the event and had an awesome time! It was ridiculous and chaotic and had only the loosest association with fighting but it was undeniably fun. Snoop Dogg and Steve Urkel selling weed, Oscar De La Hoya possibly drunk and rambling, more musical acts than fights, and AC Slater trying to hold it all together. It was such a good time I asked our editor to be sent to the next one and then, Triller screwed the pooch in just about every way.

Instead of staying locked into the Jake Paul money train, Triller let their meal ticket move on, and instead they tried to do the same general thing only with older names, and I suspect it’s going to fail spectacularly. For the original Triller event, there was a clearly defined audience who it was targeted at: Jake Paul fans. Now, who is the target audience? Boxing fans don’t give two tugs of a dead dog’s tail about watching 58-year old Evander Holyfield box an MMA guy and the certainly don’t care about Silva-Ortiz, and even MMA fans aren’t likely to be too keyed up on this with De La Hoya pulling out. I think that’s why Triller has made the last-ditch effort to have Donald Trump on commentary: they needed some sort of flagpole around which to draw viewers and Trump has a devout following. I’m skeptical that will work, but even if it does this time, this isn’t sustainable. Without Jake Paul, Triller does not have a solid foundation upon which to promote fights and there’s only so long you can tread water in these high seas. I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the last event Triller ever put on.

Thanks for reading this week, and thank you for everyone who sent in Tweets! Do you have any burning questions about things at least tacitly related to combat sports? Then you’re in luck, because you can send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew and I will answer them! Doesn’t matter if they’re topical or insane. Get weird with it. Let’s have fun.

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