PFL World Championships Recap

PFL Championships
Six world titles were on the line this Friday night as the PFL concluded its 2022 playoff season. Photo Credit: MMAJunkie.USAToday.

Robert Wilkinson (17-2) vs Omari Akhmedov (24-8)

The light heavyweight title fight in the PFL playoffs featured two former UFC veterans. Omari Akhmedov was once a top 15 fighter in the UFC’s stacked middleweight division. Robert Wilkinson was best known before his PFL career as the man who welcomed former UFC champion Israel Adesanya to the octogen in his debut.

Wilkinson and Akhmedov went to war from the opening bell. This was not the most technical matchup but both men put on a fan-friendly fight trading massive shots at close range. In the first round, Wilkinson landed big shots that forced Akhmedov to attempt multiple takedowns. Wilkinson showed much-improved takedown defense in this fight not letting the Russian wrestler Akhmedov take him to the ground. As Akhmedov continued to pursue unsuccessful takedowns it looked to take a toll on his stamina.

Round two was completely controlled by Wilkinson who battered Akhmedov with elbows and punches against the fence. Midway through the round, the ringside physician came in to look at a nasty cut over the eye of Akhmedov. Akhmedov showed tremendous heart, but the youth and speed of Wilkinson were too much in this fight. As the contest resumed Wilkinson threw a left hook to right uppercut combination that floored Akhmedov. Akhmedov was lucky to survive until the end of the round but could not answer the bell for round 3.

Rob Wilkinson’s TKO victory made him the first Australian-born fighter to win the Million Dollar PFL tournament.

Sadibou Sy (13-6) vs Dilano Taylor (10-3)

In the final of the PFL welterweight playoffs, former professional kickboxer Sadibou Sy (13-6) took on PFL newcomer Dilano Taylor (10-3). Taylor was coming off the biggest win of his career, knocking out former UFC title challenger Rory Macdonald. Sy is a very tall fighter (6’3) for the 170-pound division and had won three consecutive fights by decision entering this contest.

Sy showcased his impressive kickboxing skills in this matchup outpointing Taylor with effective leg kicks and jabs at distance. It was not the most entertaining fight, but Sy used his length and reach well to keep Taylor on the outside. Coming into this matchup Taylor had not faced an opponent with the striking abilities of Sy, who made him look confused at times.

Sadibou Sy’s volume was the story of this fight as he outstruck his opponent and easily won a unanimous decision (49-46) on all three judges’ scorecards.

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (17-5) vs. Stevie Ray (25-11)

In PFL’s 155-pound division two former UFC veterans again squared off as Canada’s Olivier Aubin- Mercier faced Scotland’s, Stevie Ray. The first round of this matchup was highly competitive, Mercier took the fight to the ground early only to be reversed in position by Ray. Mercier was able to eventually get to his feet and win the striking exchanges until the end of the round. The first round was very grappling-heavy as both men wanted to establish a dominant position.

The biggest surprise of the night happened in round two, as Aubin- Mercier landed a powerful right hook that shut Ray’s lights off. This was a flash knockout that immediately ended Ray’s night. Mercier showed great sportsmanship by not following up with punches while Ray was on the ground unconscious. Mercier has been training at TriStar MMA, where his coaches have helped him improve drastically with his striking. A knockout like this is something that we do not normally see out of Mercier, who normally relies on his wrestling. It was very encouraging to see the improvements that he has made in his striking game. This was the most impressive win of Mercier’s career earning him the PFL playoffs Million-dollar check.

Ante Delija (23-5) vs. Matheus Scheffel (17-9)

The Heavyweight playoff final saw the young and talented Matheus Scheffel matched up against Ante Delija, who is the protégé of MMA and kickboxing legend Mirko Cro Cop. Delija is a veteran of the PFL having been to the final of last season’s playoffs coming up short to Bruno Cappelozza. This was a rematch of a regular season contest earlier this year, that saw Delija win by knockout in the second round.

This contest went exactly the same as the first fight only ending quicker. 46 seconds into the first round Delija landed a massive right hand that sat Scheffel down against the cage. Delija pounced on the opportunity and ended the fight with ground and pound. This victory improved Delija’s record to 7-2 within the promotion. With the lack of elite talent on PFL’s heavyweight roster, it is highly probable that Delija could find himself in a championship fight next season as well.

Brendan Loughnane (26-4) vs. Bubba Jenkins (19-6)

In the Co-Main event, Brendan Loughnane of England faced former Division One wrestling standout Bubba Jenkins. After being cut from the Dana White Contender Series, Loughnane has found a home with the PFL. Where he has gone 8-1 inside the promotion. Jenkins, however, was coming off a three-fight win streak of his own and was 5-1 inside the PFL cage. This was a very interesting stylistic matchup between the volume striker Loughnane and the powerful wrestler Jenkins.

In round one Loughnane established his leg kicks early causing his calf of Jenkins to swell up dramatically. This caused Jenkins problems throughout the round as he struggled to take down Loughnane with a weakened leg. In between rounds, the coaches of Jenkins applied Ice to the swelling on his leg, although it did not seem to be effective. Jenkins mobility was hampered for the remainder of the fight. In the second and third rounds, Loughnane started to pull away as his volume and pressure seemed to be the difference in this matchup.

Jenkins could not find the takedown that he desperately needed in this fight. The pressure and volume of Loughnane overwhelmed Jenkins in round four. At the three-minute mark, Loughnane landed a straight right hand that knocked down Jenkins, where he finished him with ground and pound. Loughnane outstruck his opponent 162-68 in this matchup. At 32 years old Loughnane is in the prime of his career and will continue to be one of the best fighters on PFL’s roster.

Kayla Harrison (15-1) vs. Larissa Pacheco (19-4)

The Main event of the PFL championships was a women’s lightweight title fight. 2-time PFL champion Kayla Harrison faced dangerous striker Larrisa Pacheco for the third time. Harrison won both of the previous matchups dominating the fights with takedowns and ground control. Coming into this contest Harrison was undefeated in her professional career and was a -1400 favorite on online sportsbooks.

Pacheco came out swinging wildly in round one trying to earn the respect of Harrison early. Multiple times in the opening round Pacheco landed hard combinations as Harrison shot in for takedowns. Harrison was persistent however and eventually got the fight to the ground. Harrison won round one maintaining top control for the final three minutes. Pacheco made adjustments in the second round defending many takedowns and winning the striking exchanges. Round two was the easiest round to score for Pacheco who forced Harrison into a brawl on the feet.

In round three Harrison returned the fight to the ground, but Pacheco was landing sharp elbows from the bottom position herself. The middle rounds of the fight were extremely hard to score. Harrison’s stamina did seem to fade in the later rounds letting Pacheco back into the fight. After five hard-fought rounds’ the judges awarded Pacheco the win unanimously. (48-47).

Entering this fight Harrison was the largest betting favorite in women’s MMA history, but things did not go as expected for the former champion. Pacheco fought a brilliant fight proving to be dangerous while standing and on the ground. PFL may elect to have these women fight for a fourth time next season.

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