The welterweight champions from both of the PFL’s past seasons are here. So is a champ from another promotion who was brought in to raise the bar for this season. And then there’s the surprise star who’s found recent success in both boxing and MMA who spoiled the party for a high-profile former UFC titlist.
As the PFL playoffs get underway with semifinals in the lightweight and welterweight divisions (live on ESPN+), there are a lot of stories unfolding Friday evening at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Headlining the event is a clash that many inside and outside the PFL anticipated before the season when the company signed former Bellator welterweight champion and UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. He takes on 2019 season champion and 2018 finalist Ray Cooper III.
The 2018 welterweight champ is in the co-main event. Magomed Magomedkerimov, fighting for just the second time this year, takes on late replacement Sadibou Sy.
At lightweight, the main attraction is Clay Collard — but he wasn’t supposed to be. Collard, a longtime MMA fighter who became an unlikely sensation in boxing by winning five straights bout in 2020, opened the season by upsetting Anthony Pettis.
Collard takes on Raush Manfio, while the other semifinal features No. 1 seed Loik Radzhabov vs. No. 4 Alexander Martinez in a rematch from the regular season. Martinez, the lower seed, actually won that first fight.
The action from Hollywood, Florida gets underway with six non-tournament bouts in the 155- and 170-pound divisions. Follow along throughout the night for live results and insights.
Welterweight: Magomed Umalatov vs. Micah Terrill
Betting odds (via DraftKings): Umalatov -575 | Silva +410
Welterweight: Michael Lombardo def. Kyron Bowen via first-round TKO (calf kicks/punches)
At 6-foot-2, Bowen is tall for a welterweight. But Lombardo chopped him down to size, first landing several overhand rights upwards to Bowen’s head, and then hobbling Bowen with kicks to the left calf.
The first make him limp backward, the second dropped him and made Bowen yell and grab his leg. Lombardo grabbed Bowen’s compromised leg with one hand and then punched it with his other hand, before landing a third kick to a grounded Bowen’s calf. That last kick, and Bowen’s painful yell, brought referee Gary Copeland in to wave off the fight at 3:42 of Round 1.
Lightweight: Elvin Espinoza def. Hopeton Stewart via first-round technical submission (rear-naked choke)
The card opened with a matchup of two Miami-based fighters both making their PFL debuts, and the unbeaten Espinoza was in control from the start. Espinoza got an early takedown and worked for a rear-naked choke, which he was able to lock in. The choke rendered Stewart unconscious, and referee Keith Peterson stepped in to end the fight at 2:45 of Round 1.
Still to come:
ESPN2/ESPN+ (semifinals), 9 p.m. ET
Welterweight: No. 2 Rory MacDonald vs. No. 3 Ray Cooper III
Welterweight: No. 4 Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. No. 5 Sadibou Sy
Lightweight: No. 2 Clay Collard vs. No. 3 Raush Manfio | Lightweight
Lightweight: No. 1 Loik Radzhabov vs. No. 4 Alexander Martinez | Lightweight
Welterweight: Gleison Tibau vs. Curtis Millender
Lightweight: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Darrell Horcher
Lightweight: Brett Cooper vs. Tyler Hill
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