Outside of Bellator 207 and Bellator 208, the MMA world’s focus during the weekend of Oct. 12-14 was on the Professional Fighters League and PFL 9. The card featured quarterfinal and semifinal bouts in the promotion’s light heavyweight and lightweight tournaments on Saturday in Long Beach, California, and there was no shortage of entertainment.
FLYING KIMURA … In the PFL light heavyweight quarterfinals, Brazilian Vinny Magalhaes met American Rakim Cleveland. In the first round, Magalhaes found himself in the clinch position, with his adversary backed up against the cage. From there, the longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt jumped, pulled guard and, while dragging Cleveland down to the mat on top of him, threw his left leg over Cleveland’s right shoulder and interlocked the leg underneath his right. The flexible Brazilian quickly secured a kimura from his back, forcing Cleveland to submit 1:20 into the first round. The spectacular submission pushed Magalhaes’ record to 17-9. Cleveland slipped to 19-11-1.
HEAVY-HANDED … The first light heavyweight semifinal pairing was a showdown between American Sean O’Connell and Canada’s Smealinho Rama. The American dropped his rival early, but upon returning to his feet, Rama stunned O’Connell with punches. However, O’Connell, having weathered the storm, connected with a left hook to the head that felled Rama. After following him down to the floor, O’Connell finished the job with two additional left hands, prompting the referee to intervene at the 1:45 mark of Round 1. In punching his ticket to the final, O’Connell improved to 20-10. In defeat, Rama slid to 11-5-1.
Heavyweight Semifinal: #1 Vinny Magalhaes defeats #4 Bozigit Ataev by Submission in Round 1. Magalhaes advances to the PFL 2018 Championship for a shot at $1 Million! #PFLPlayoffs #MMA @VinnyMMA pic.twitter.com/L630ptLPfP— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) October 14, 2018
A WINNING FORMULA … In the other light heavyweight semifinal, Magalhaes was pitted against Russian Bozigit Ataev , who had come out victorious by TKO in his quarterfinal bout. In the first round, Magalhaes pulled guard on his opponent. Despite eating several hammerfists on the bottom, the Brazilian managed to reverse position. Soon after, he grabbed Ataev’s right arm and twisted it to claim his second kimura finish of the event. The end came at 1:58 of Round 1. In victory, “Pezao” upped his record to 18-9 and qualified for the promotion’s light heavyweight final. Meanwhile, Ataev fell to 19-3.
A narrow escape for a shot at MMA history! Lightweight Semifinal: #1 Natan Schulte defeats #4 Chris Wade by Split Decision. Schulte advances to the $1 Million Championship to take on #7 Rashid Magomedov on NYE in NYC! #PFLPlayoffs #MMA #LA #PFLmma @NatanSchulte @CWadeMMA pic.twitter.com/6AMF2cgk54— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) October 14, 2018
NARROW MARGINS … In the PFL lightweight semifinals, Brazilian Natan Schulte clashed with American Chris Wade. This was a closely contested affair. In the first stanza, Wade appeared close to finishing the match with a guillotine, but Schulte defended and escaped. The second saw both fighters trading blows on the feet. In the third round, a visibly fatigued Schulte kept pushing forward and emerged victorious with a contentious split decision. In qualifying for the PFL lightweight final, Schulte improved to 14-3-1. Wade dipped to 14-5.
Booking a trip to #NYC on #NYE! Lightweight Semifinal: #7 Rashid Magomedov defeats #6 Thiago Tavares by 2nd round TKO. Magomedov advances to the Lightweight Championship. #PFLPlayoffs #PFLmma #MMA #PFL9 #LA @RashidGorets @TavaresMMA pic.twitter.com/fBOWhdFCLI— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) October 14, 2018
BEATDOWN … In the other lightweight semifinal, Russia’s Rashid Magomedov fought Brazil’s Thiago Tavares. This was not the expected pairing. Tavares, who usually competes at featherweight, had lost his quarterfinal earlier but was allowed to return due to an injury to his opponent. Both pugilists were hesitant on their feet in the first frame. In the second, Tavares attempted a leg lock on the ground, but Magomedov patiently defended. Upon returning to his feet, he unleashed right hands on his still prone rival until the referee called off the fight 3:36 into Round 2. In securing his place in the final, “Gorets” moved to 22-2-1. Tavares slipped to 22-10-1.