Last night, the PFL put on quite an exciting event. There were eight fights and a grand total of six finishes, with five of those finishes coming in the first round. The crowd went home happy and so did 12 fighters, as the standings became official and playoff match ups were set for the men’s welterweight and women’s lightweight divisions.
Here’s what we learned from the event:
- Sarah Kaufman and Kayla Harrison will definitely fight for the lightweight belt come December…or will they?
All year fans have been wondering and waiting when Sarah Kaufman and Kayla Harrison would finally fight. With Kaufman claiming the #1 seed and Harrison claiming the #2 seed, we now know the two powerhouses of the division will have to wait until the finals to clash. Although both fighters must win one more fight before it becomes official, the fighters were acting as if the final was already determined. At the end of the night, Kayla Harrison yelled to the crowd, “Everyone will be happy. Sarah and I will meet in the finals…and I’m gonna be a millionaire!” Kaufman quickly responded by saying that she was excited to fight Harrison but she would win the prize money.
Yet, sitting silently in 4th place with a fight lined up against Sarah Kaufman is Larissa Pacheco. Last night Pacheco got an early takedown against undefeated Bobbi Jo Dalziel, she smoothly transitioned to mount and submitted Dalziel with an armbar just 2 minutes and 31 seconds into the fight.
This great performance by Larissa, not only guaranteed her a playoff spot, but proved she should not be overlooked by pundits whenever she does face Kaufman. She is a 15-fight veteran with eight of her wins coming by submission. Whilst to contrast this, three of Kaufman’s four losses came by submission, this could potentially be a dangerous matchup for Kaufman.
While at the post-fight press conference Sarah Kaufman claimed she was not overlooking Pacheco, it is difficult to truly believe this when everyone around her believes Kaufman and Harrison are on a collision course to meet in the finals. Sarah Kaufman and Kayla Harrison will and should be the favorites in their upcoming bouts, but Larissa Pacheco is a dark horse that could very well disrupt the PFL’s plans.
- Rankings, standings, and points all matter, but at the end of the day it is still MMA
Last night, David Michaud entered the cage a +450 underdog against Handesson Ferreira. He was coming off a 17 second KO loss, while his opponent had 3 points and was currently in a playoff position. The odds were against him, but with a minute left in the first round, Michaud dropped Ferreira, put him in a crucifix, and pounded his head against the canvas until the ref stepped in.
Later, John Howard entered the octagon as a +470 underdog as we went up against last year’s runner up, Ray Cooper III. Howard was 1-2-1 in his last four fights and currently had 0 points. Cooper III was coming off a 2nd round submission victory and held 5 points. Once again, the underdog pulled off an upset, with Howard knocking Cooper III unconscious with a left hook 3 minutes and 23 seconds into the fight.
These fights were a nice reminder that while points and standings matter, PFL is still an MMA organization, and anything can happen. Heading into the playoffs, there is no guarantee the top seeds coast to the finals.
- Magomed Magomedkerimov is still the best welterweight in the PFL
Last night’s main event pitted Magomed Magomedkerimov against one of the best offseason signings, Chris Curtis. Curtis TKO’d his first regular season opponent, and as a strong striker on a 7-fight win streak, he was a real threat to Magomedkerimov’s crown. Magomedkerimov relied heavily on his grappling and spent most of the fight in a dominant position. In the third round, Curtis went for a guillotine, and for a moment it looked like he would pull it off, but Magomedkerimov remained calm and defended it. Outside of that scare, Magomedkerimov was in control. He coasted to a 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 decision. While this performance was only good enough to claim the 2 seed, Magomedkerimov is last year’s champion and a fighter who has yet to lose in the PFL, making him the clear favorite to take the belt home this December.
- PFL is better for the casual fan than the UFC
Last night Joao Zeferino and Bojan Velickovic faced off on the 2nd fight on the main card. Before this event, I had not heard of either fighter. If this had been a bout in the UFC, or any other organization for that matter, it would have been a fight I likely would have overlooked. Who are these guys? Why are they fighting? Why do I care?
For the casual fan, this is a question they face a lot. If it’s not a title bout or a number one contender fight, why are they fighting? It’s this exact question that makes the UFC award interim belts every few months. But the PFL does not have this problem. They laid out the stakes of this fight very clearly. Both fighters would have to finish the other to get at least 4 points and move to the playoffs. A decision win would not be enough. Instantly I was hooked, and I began to highly anticipate a fight between two men I had never heard before.
With a format like this and a spot-on ESPN, it’s not unrealistic for the PFL to gain some traction with casual fans. As Pete Murray, the PFL’s CEO, mentioned in the post-fight press conference, there is no undercard in the PFL. Every fight matters, every fighter knows what they are fighting for. This context is something we don’t see in any other organization, and it is something that is crucial for an entertaining fight experience.