Paddy Pimblett | Dolly Clew, Cage Warriors
Few things infuriate MMA fans more than a fight being scored incorrectly, though the term “robbery” tends to be thrown around carelessly and is often steeped in bias. With Robbery Review, we’ll take a look back at controversial fights and determine whether the judges were rightly criticized for their decision or if pundits need to examine their own knee-jerk reactions.
A solid UFC London card is just around the corner, and though it features several ranked fighters who could be competing for a title in the near future, arguably the most talked-about name on the card is Liverpool’s Paddy Pimblett.
The Scouser has a habit of making headlines, whether it’s because of his unique hairstyle, multi-million dollar endorsement deals, or penchant for mischief outside of the cage. Pimblett made a name for himself well before his successful UFC debut this past September, and in this edition of Robbery Review, we’re jumping back to one of the biggest fights of his young career and, as it turned out, the most controversial.
A 21-year-old Pimblett was fresh off of a quick TKO win over Johnny Frachey that earned him a vacant Cage Warriors featherweight title and two months later he was set to defend it against former and future UFC fighter Julian Erosa. The matchup was set for Cage Warriors: Unplugged on Nov. 12, 2016, in London, and Pimblett played the role of the conquering hero to a tee.
Or at least he did until the fight started. A five-round battle ensued and though Pimblett came out with his hand raised, there were immediate cries of “robbery” when the fight happened and as recently as last year both fighters were open to the possibility of a rematch.
Is it necessary or did Pimblett do enough the first time to prove that he was the better man? Let’s head to the Robbery Review lab and see what all the fuss was about.
What was the official result?
Paddy Pimblett def. Julian Erosa via unanimous decision.
How did the fight go?
Full disclosure, I remembered the discourse around this fight when it happened but had never actually watched it before doing so for this feature. There was one moment that I’m sure many saw (we’ll get to that later) but of the fight itself I only had a vague understanding of what went down. So fire up that UFC Fight Pass and let’s watch this together.
In Round 1, Pimblett came out looking to scrap, which probably wasn’t a bad strategy given Erosa’s unorthodox and tricky style. If Erosa had set the pace early, it would have been a long night for Pimblett. As it was, Pimblett showed developing striking skills, but soon Erosa began to land counter punches. That prompted Pimblett to go back to his strengths and take this one to the ground, though he doesn’t get much offense off of his takedowns. He did get back control later in the round, so credit to him for that. However, in terms of actual damage, it’s close.
Pimblett continued to show his natural power in Round 2, but Erosa stayed calm and backed up to the fence where he caught a charging Pimblett with a short counter right to drop him. Erosa ended up on top where he had to deal with Pimblett’s submission attack. He slickly avoided a Pimblett triangle attempt and ended up on bottom where he landed some solid elbows off of his back. Pimblett postured for ground-and-pound, but was caught with a glancing upkick. Erosa stood up and shrugged off another back-take attempt, then resumed jabbing Pimblett’s face.
Round 3 looked to be going Pimblett’s way for the first four minutes as he scored an early takedown and briefly advanced to mount. Even when Erosa escaped that position, Pimblett maintained top control and fended off Erosa’s submission attempts before they ended up back on the feet with a minute remaining. Suddenly, Erosa hit a couple of jumping knees that clearly hurt Pimblett. But was it enough to steal the round?
In the championship rounds, Erosa pressed his advantage and appeared to pull away on the scorecards. He answered leg kicks with head shots and was picking Pimblett down in range. The only blemish of Round 4 is that the commentators were frustrated that Erosa couldn’t or wouldn’t put Pimblett away. They urged him to push the pace and finish the fight, which turned out to be a bad omen.
Erosa found his rhythm by Round 5 and Pimblett was struggling to find a way to get in. Pimblett has a takedown attempt stuffed and when they separated, Erosa went right back to work with teeps and low kicks while tossing in the occasional head shot. His plan appeared to be to ride the body work until the buzzer sounded. Pimblett did land a left hook and fought hard for a takedown near the end of the fight. Possibly too little too late.
What did the judges say?
Ben Cartlidge scored it 48-47 Pimblett.
David Lethaby scored it 48-47 Pimblett.
Andy Sledge scored it 49-46 Pimblett.
Cartilage and Lethaby both gave Pimblett the first three rounds, while Sledge gave him those rounds plus the fifth.
It’s at this point where I remind you that this is the fight where Pimblett puked during his post-fight interview. Seek out the clip at own risk.
What did the media say?
What did the people say?
Once again looking to MMA Decisions, we don’t have a lot of fan votes to work with (36 total according to the site), but the top two results are actually tied with 27.8 percent of the vote: 49-46 Erosa and 48-47 Pimblett. The rest of the top five results are all for Erosa (48-47 at 22.2 percent, 50-45 at 13.9 percent, and 48-46 at 2.8 percent).
More fun to look at — if less data-driven — is the various reactions from the MMA Twittersphere, some of which we shall look at here:
— Eugene Carrick (@ecarrick85) November 12, 2016
Welp. Erosa got absolutely robbed, then Pimblett vomited blood at the end of his post-fight speech.
— Phil Mackenzie (@EvilGregJackson) November 12, 2016
I thought Erosa beat Pimblett for the CWFC strap
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) June 27, 2018
the hilariously drunk judges didnt agree with you
— Dave/Dim (@dimspace) June 27, 2018
One of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen. https://t.co/upG1klgCm7
— Andy Stevenson (@andyste123) November 12, 2016
shocking decision that. He was absolutely out in the 4th
— Ste Browne (@stephen19browne) November 12, 2016
How did I score it?
I feel comfortable giving Erosa four of the five rounds, though at least one of those was close.
Give Round 1 to Pimblett for outworking Erosa, who hadn’t quite gotten out of the gates yet. Then Erosa takes the second with the knockdown and a busy jab. The third is highly contentious as Pimblett neutralized Erosa for almost the entire round, but I give it to Erosa for the two knees at the end, which were the most impactful moments in that frame.
That leaves Rounds 4 and 5, both of which I saw for Erosa. The fourth might have been the easiest round to judge as Erosa picked up the pace while Pimblett did almost nothing (all three judges agreed this was an Erosa round) and I felt Erosa’s body work gave him the final round as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that I gave little weight to Pimblett’s takedowns, which only occasionally led to meaningful offense.
So 49-46 Erosa, 48-47 at worst.
Was it a robbery?
Erosa did most of the damage so Erosa should have a Cage Warriors belt in his trophy case somewhere. This isn’t just nitpicking the best moments of the fight either, even looking at each round separately Erosa’s knockdown in Round 2 should given him that 10-9 and his two knees at the end of Round 3 had Pimblett far more hurt than anything Pimblett had done to him in that round. And Rounds 4 and 5 were clear-cut as Erosa got into a groove and Pimblett’s offense was shut down.
Blame it on the rowdy English crowd (and they were all in on Pimblett, his star power is legitimate) or classic overvaluing of takedowns or even Erosa failing to put an exclamation point on his performance, but when you take the time to break down who actually landed the most effective techniques, I don’t see how one can reasonably score this fight for Pimblett.
With respect to the judges, who don’t have the benefit of the clearest angles and replay that we have watching the fight in 2022, we have to break out the rubber stamp and red ink for this one.
The final verdict
Robbery. There’s still time to run this one back!