UFC tips for 2022: Paddy’s MMA expert on what to expect in the New Year

Seán Taylor has got his crystal ball out to look into the future for some of the old and new faces in MMA.

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Conor McGregor

‘The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long’ is a phrase I’ve long thought applied appropriately to Conor McGregor. Having gone 9-1 during his unprecedented rise to stardom in the UFC, he is now 1-3 since beating Eddie Alvarez – his last meaningful win.

Those three losses would put most fighters well down the pecking order in what is one of the deepest divisions in the UFC. In terms of a meritocracy and strategically, should McGregor be allowed to call his shots is another question. However, even still, the Notorious one can probably still control his own destiny to an extent. When exploring what’s next for McGregor we have to start with the champion, Charles Oliveira, who McGregor recently called out on Twitter.

Were this fight to be booked, I believe Oliveira opens as a sizeable favourite and I wouldn’t be in a rush to get McGregor onside. Personally, I don’t see this fight as being too likely to happen next and there are better, smarter options for McGregor. Nate Diaz is an option which it’s said will always be there. Given Diaz’s next fight being the last on his UFC contract, I don’t see the UFC offering him the chance to ride into free agency off the back of a huge win and making a bucket load of cash. It would certainly be a departure from how they generally do business.

That leads me to El Cucuy, Tony Ferguson. Honestly, both are in very similar positions in their careers, coming off tough losses that have left many questioning where they stand in the division. And while the questions being asked of Ferguson are somewhat more serious, if I’m Conor McGregor, Ferguson is the name I’m shouting. It’s a winnable fight, and I’m not sure how many of those there are at the top of the lightweight division. Added to that, it’s a bout that does really well on PPV. Both guys can talk and I’m sure there’ll be some lunacy in the build-up to push the fight even further.

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Darren Till

Darren Till is a funny one, and I don’t just mean his social media posts. He’s career record is 18-4, but those four losses have come in his last five fights, added to a host of injury setbacks. All of this sandwiched between an impressive win against Kelvin Gastelum. It’s hard not to watch Till and think his striking is of a level where could conceivably be a champion someday.

However, something that has come to cost him in some fights of late is his lack of activity. It’s very hard to win rounds throwing high intensity shots at a low volume. His feint game is very good, but feints don’t win rounds and are only useful to the extent that you use them to set up shots thrown with the intention of landing. Till has a style that I imagine is quite hard on his limbs and I wonder how much this has contributed to his recent injury troubles.

It doesn’t take a genius to look at his training videos and figure out where the injuries come from. There has been talk of a fight with Uriah Hall, eight and nine in the rankings respectively, at a mooted UFC London card circa next March. But, looking at the middleweight rankings, it’s hard to matchmake Darren Till right now. What is important is that he stays healthy and gets back in the win column. Ultimately, Till isn’t much of a betting prospect in his current form.

Leon Edwards

Title shot. I really don’t think there’s much else to say here. Since losing to the champion, Kamaru Usman back in 2015, Edwards has gone 9-0. The question of whether or not he beats Edwards is irrelevant. The champion has a responsibility to defend his belt against the most deserving challenger and right now, that’s Leon Edwards. Title shot or we riot!

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Paddy Pimblett

Pimblett has long been a cult hero on the European MMA scene and very much gotten to the UFC his way. I’ve no doubt Pimblett will absolutely light up Liverpool, London, Vegas or wherever he fights because that’s the kind of personality he has, while his walkout song belongs as much at a rave as it does at a UFC card.

What I do have doubts about is how far he can go in a lightweight division that is absolutely stacked with killers. His UFC debut is something of a blueprint for how his fights will go; he’s definitely hittable, but he can take a shot, is always dangerous and can knock you out at any time. From a betting perspective, this does make him a tempting prospect to oppose at underdog odds. What you can be sure of, is that Paddy Pimblett fights are must watch and they will be entertaining.

Ian Garry

Without doubt the most exciting prospect to come out of Ireland since Conor McGregor, Garry scored a memorable KO on his UFC debut to take the hype train to another level. What was very interesting post-fight was how he spoke about being somewhat starry eyed when got in the Octagon. Anyone who has followed Garry’s early Cage Warriors will be well aware of how self-assured he usually is, so this was a really honest assessment of why he appeared a little gun shy in the early exchanges of the fight.

Matchmaking will be important to Garry’s development. He’s a fantastic prospect, but, at 8-0, he’s still a relative baby in MMA terms. If he’s matched accordingly, coupled with the world class training at Sanford MMA, I see no reason he can’t be a player at the top of the Welterweight division. I can’t wait to watch his journey unfold.

Ones to watch

Muhammad Mokaev: 21 years old, two-time IMMAF World Champion, undefeated as an amateur and now 5-0 as a pro, Mokaev is one of the most exciting blue-chip prospects I’ve seen in a while. Scheduled for his UFC in March 2022.

Frans Mlambo: Has every chance of getting a UFC contract in the very near future.

Paul Hughes: The current Cage Warriors Interim Featherweight champion, has a big unification fight scheduled for March. If he wins here, don’t be surprised to see the UFC come calling.

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What do you think?