A new year is here and that means it’s time for Combat Press to take a look back at the best of MMA in 2022. In the coming days, Combat Press will announce its award winners in multiple categories, covering everything from the action in the cage to the biggest stories surrounding the sport.
In the ever changing landscape of mixed martial arts, potential new stars are emerging all the time. It takes someone truly special to turn the corner from prospect to contender while simultaneously captivating the audience worldwide. Late in 2021, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett made his UFC debut with a lot of fanfare, and he lived up to the hype by notching a first-round knockout over Luigi Vendramini. With the promotional machine of the UFC behind him, along with the million-dollar endorsement deal he signed with Barstool Sports, the Liverpool native came into 2022 with the opportunity to become a star.
He didn’t disappoint. His first fight of 2022 came as the promotion returned to London for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic. It took less than one round for the jiu-jitsu black belt to submit Rodrigo Vargas, and a star was born in front of the home crowd. Pimblett’s personality and “Performance of the Night” bonus-winning showing took center stage, even outshining another British rising star in Tom Aspinall, who picked up a first-round submission win of his own in the main event.
The wheels were fully set in motion for Pimblett’s star power to continue to skyrocket as the UFC came back to London four months later in July. For the first time since joining the promotion, Pimblett would see a second round, but he would need just over half of the second round before notching yet another submission victory, this time over Jordan Leavitt. Two wins, and only seven months into the calendar year, had “The Baddy” moving forward with full steam ahead.
Pimblett would fight once more in 2022, this time as the co-main event at UFC 282. He faced a major step-up in competition, as he took on UFC veteran Jared Gordon. By far the closest fight that Pimblett has had to date, he squeaked away with a decision victory in an incredibly competitive contest. For the first time, Pimblett wouldn’t leave the cage with a “Performance of the Night” bonus. However, with the UFC and Barstool Sports both promoting him as the next big thing, Pimblett’s popularity didn’t wane, despite a less-than-spectacular performance. That might be the truest sign of someone with star power. It is easy to be on the top of fans’ minds when you win big, but remaining in the public eye after a hard-fought controversial win shows real staying power. With those three wins and the high-profile positions on important fight cards, Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett earns the Combat Press 2022 MMA Award for the Breakout Fighter of the Year.