12:30 AM ET
Kayla Harrison was not the big story coming into Friday’s action at PFL 6 — a night when both a two-season PFL champion in Lance Palmer and a star signee in Anthony Pettis had their backs against the wall in the final push for the playoffs, and fell short. But Harrison ended the evening in Atlantic City, New Jersey, by showing off why she was the headliner.
Harrison, the defending PFL women’s lightweight champion, remained unbeaten with a dominant first-round finish of Cindy Dandois to lock down her spot in the PFL playoffs. Whereas her first bout of the season ended in a ground-and-pound TKO, this time she got an armbar submission at 4 minutes, 44 seconds.
“I like to keep them guessing, keep working on stuff, keep improving, little by little,” said Harrison, a 2012 and 2016 Olympic judo gold medalist. “I’m so far ahead of these girls. It’s because since I was 8 years old I’ve been dropping people on their head. I conquered the judo world, which no American was able to do. And now I’m here to conquer the MMA world. This is a ‘Game of Thrones,’ and I’m going to be the queen.”
Harrison, who is 30 years old and fights out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, improved to 10-0 and earned the No. 2 seed in the women’s lightweight playoffs. On Aug. 27, she will face Genah Fabian, who earlier in the evening scored a second-round knockout of Julia Pajic. Harrison is seeded behind Larissa Pacheco, who on Friday had her second straight first-round knockout. Because her two finishes were slightly faster, Pacheco edged Harrison out for the No. 1 seed.
Asked after her fight whether she’d seen anything from Fabian that impressed her, Harrison said, “No.”
Pettis’ second PFL fight was much closer than his one-sided loss to Clay Collard back in April, but Pettis dropped to 0-2 and failed to qualify for the playoffs after losing to Manfio. Two judges had it 29-28 for Manfio, while the third had it 29-28 in Pettis’ favor.
Over the course of the 2018 and 2019 PFL seasons, Palmer went 10-0 and won the featherweight championship both years. In 2021, he went 0-2 to fall short of the playoffs.
The deck was stacked against him on this night. Palmer needed a finish within the first two rounds in order to advance, and he was in the cage with an undefeated fighter. While both men had their moments, it was Khaybulaev’s fight, and all of three judges agreed, scoring the fight 29-28.
The 30-year-old from Russia spent considerable time controlling Palmer with his wrestling, and he landed a few good punches from distance. Palmer landed a few, too, but he always seemed a step behind Khaybulaev, who earned the right to move on to the playoffs and become the PFL’s next featherweight champion.
There were two winners in this fight: Goltsov, who got his second finish of the season, and Jamelle Jones, who opened the night with a first-round finish that, along with the Goltsov result, put the PFL newcomer in the playoffs.
Goltsov, a 31-year-old from Russia, beat down and wore down Sayles, who was in the running for a playoff spot himself. Goltsov ran away with the fight before getting the ground-and-pound TKO at 1:24 of Round 3. He nearly got a submission finish several times in the second round, but Sayles hung tough.
Sayles, who is 40, is in the military and stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia. He was on the defensive for much of this fight and appeared to be out of gas in the third.
Cappelozza apparently does not like to linger inside the cage. He won his first fight of the 2021 PFL season in 46 seconds, and this time he came out with a fury right from the start.
The 32-year-old Brazilian didn’t get the stoppage immediately, despite unloading on DeReese in the opening minute. But shortly thereafter, Cappelozza wobbled his opponent with a left hook, flurried against the cage and landed a head kick just as DeReese was crumbling to the canvas.
The knockout came at 2:21 of Round 1, good for 6 points and a season total of 12 — clinching a playoff spot and putting him atop the heavyweight standings, pending one more heavyweight fight on the card.
Pacheco had 3 points and a playoff spot sewed up before the fight even began, after Kolesnyk missed weight Thursday.
She wanted more, and boy did she get it.
Pacheco opted to take the fight and a chance to earn a few extra points for seeding, but early on she took some shots during aggressive exchanges, particularly during a flurry late in Round 1, in which Kolesnyk landed a couple of punches to the head and moved towards Pacheco in pursuit. Kolesnyk then walked directly into a left-right combination from Pacheco that instantly floored her and suddenly finished the fight. Referee Gasper Oliver stepped in and called an end to the fight before Pacheco could even get to the ground.
The knockout at 4:48 was Pacheco’s second first-round knockout of the season, giving her 12 points in the standings. That sends the 26-year-old Brazilian into the playoffs, with an excellent chance of her being the No. 1 seed. Pacheco has eyes on reigning champion Kayla Harrison, who was scheduled to fight in the PFL 6 headliner with a chance at No. 1 herself and a playoff spot already locked up. Harrison defeated Pacheco twice in 2019, including a matchup in the 2019 PFL women’s lightweight finals.
Delija needed a first-round finish in order to have any hope of a playoff spot, and he fought with an urgency that increased its intensity as the seconds ticked off the clock.
The 30-year-old from Croatia had Cole in trouble a couple of times early, and he had to deal with a couple of reversals of position. Cole gave him problems until Delija got top position on the canvas in the final minute of Round 1 and began furiously unloading punches. Cole covered up, but that was not enough for referee Keith Peterson, who implored him, “Fight back!”
Cole did not budge from his defensive shell, so the ref jumped in at 4:39 to wave off the bout. That gave Delija 6 points, putting him in playoff position pending results later in the night.
Cole, who is 33 and from Coeburn, Virginia, was making his PFL debut.
Fabian took her time early in her fight against Pajic, calmly piecing her up for a good nine minutes. But there was no indication that Pajic with under any threat of a finish — something Fabian needed in order to make the playoffs.
Then Fabian, a 31-year-old New Zealander, landed a right kick to the head to wobble Pajic, and she followed with a straight left hand that dropped Pajic. Fabian then landed a flurry of punches against the cage to earn a second-round TKO at 4:16 of Round 2. That gave Fabian 5 points, and a season total of 8 — good for a guaranteed spot in the PFL playoffs.
Palic, who is 31 and from Croatia, has been finished in both of her 2021 PFL fights.
Ferreira did not tap this time around. That much we can say with certainty. Problem was, the 31-year-old from Brazil was unable to make his opponent tap out either. So there will be no playoffs for Ferreira.
Ferreira took a unanimous decision with three scorecards of 30-26, but the 3 points gave him a total of just 4. His first bout had been a no contest with Fabricio Werdum. Originally, it was a TKO by Ferreira, but Werdum claimed that Ferreira had tapped out, and the New Jersey athletic commission overturned the result.
Seumanutafa, a 31-year-old Samoan who fights out of San Francisco, was making his season debut. After persevering through a couple of submission attempts, including a choke-out attempt in Round 2 during which he repeatedly raised his thumb to indicate to the referee he was OK, Seumanutafa rallied in Round 3 to end his opponent’s hope of advancing.
It was a matchup of fighters with 1-1 pro records, and yet the back-and-forth was skillful and smart. Guardado just had a little extra — actually, more than a little.
The 29-year-old from Las Vegas scored timely takedowns in all three rounds, escaped some submission tries by Sanchez and put on a gritty performance to earn another 3 points for a season total of 6, which put her in strong position to qualify for a playoff spot.
All three judges scored the bout 30-27 for Guardado.
Sanchez, who is 30 and fights out of Milwaukee, has lost both of her PFL bouts this season.
Morais got better and busier as the fight wore on. Early on, she was throwing her punches one at a time, and Young was slipping many of them and returning counter shots. The 25-year-old Morais, from Brazil, was not taking control.
But she picked up the pace with her strikes, and also started utilizing her judo, and that turned a close fight her way. It may have helped that Morais had former UFC strawweight champion Jessica Andrade in her corner shouting advice across the cage.
By Round 3, Morais was landing combinations and leading the dance. In the end, two judges scored it for Morais (30-27 and 29-28) and the other saw it for Young (29-28).
The victory gave Morais 3 points in the standings, and the 35-year-old Young came in with 3 points as well. Barring an unlikely multi-way tie in the standings, Morais and Young were left on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.
Jones was making his PFL debut kicking off the final regular-season card, and with only one fight to accumulate points to qualify for the playoffs, he needed to make a bold statement and do it quickly if he was going to have any chance of continuing his 2021 campaign. He did exactly that, setting the bar high for the heavyweights still to come.
The 33-year-old from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was in with an opponent who had 10 submissions, but Jones showed no reluctance to taking the fight to the canvas and keeping it there. He got a quick takedown and immediately began landing big shots, even when Abreu put him in full guard. Jones didn’t stop dropping big leather until the Brazilian rolled over, immobile, and referee Gary Copeland jumped in to end it at 1:43.
The quick TKO gave Jones 6 points, putting him in prime position to make the playoffs. For now.
Still to come:
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