Lance Palmer has enjoyed many more highs than lows during a decade-long career that resulted in his becoming a two-time champion in the World Series of Fighting and Professional Fighters League organizations. At 34, he appears to have more left in the tank.
Palmer finds himself on the rebound for the first time in more than four years as he approaches his confrontation with promotional newcomer Jesse Stirn at PFL 4 on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler fell short in his 2021 season debut in April, when he dropped a unanimous decision to Bubba Jenkins, the setback ending his run of consecutive victories at 11. Palmer has never suffered back-to-back losses as a professional.
Ahead of Palmer’s high-stakes battle with Stirn, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his successful career:
Karakhanyan submitted the previously unbeaten Palmer with a mounted guillotine choke in the third round of their World Series of Fighting 7 main event, as he became the first featherweight champion in WSOF history on Dec. 7, 2013 at the PNE Agrodome in Vancouver, British Columbia. Palmer capitulated 4:40 into Round 3. A Millennia MMA export, Karakhanyan attacked the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler with kicks to the legs, body and head. He absorbed a fairly severe eye poke midway through the first round, but after a brief pause in the match, he continued to walk down Palmer with punches. Palmer got his takedown game in gear in the second round, only to be met by his experienced counterpart’s venomous guard. Karakhanyan forced him to defend multiple armbars and a heel hook before returning to his feet. Palmer drove the Russian-born Californian to the mat off of an attempted kick in the third round, transitioned to his back and searched for the choke. Karakhanyan calmly defended, moved to a more advantageous position and caught Palmer in a scramble, locking in the guillotine for the finish.
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Palmer exacted a measure of revenge in the second of three head-to-head meetings with Almeida, as he avenged a previous defeat and reclaimed the World Series of Fighting featherweight championship with a majority decision over the Brazilian in the WSOF 32 co-headliner on July 30, 2016 at Xfinity Arena in Everett, Washington. Scores were 49-46, 48-48 and 50-45. Palmer overcame his usual dependency on takedowns, more than held his own in the standup exchanges—he charged into range with power punches to the head and body—and even knocked down the Jungle Fight veteran in the third round. While it was far from a clean victory, it allowed the American to pull even in their series. They met for a third time in the 2019 PFL quarterfinals, where Palmer walked away with a unanimous verdict and a 2-1 edge in their rivalry.
Well-timed takedowns and oppressive positional control carried Palmer to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Harrison in their PFL featherweight tournament semifinal on Oct. 5, 2018 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. All three cageside judges scored it for Palmer: 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28. Harrison—who had defeated the Team Alpha Male standout in their initial 2017 encounter—played it safe in a tepid first round, perhaps squandering an opportunity to seize momentum. Palmer executed a double-leg takedown in the second, advanced to his counterpart’s back and remained there in a standing position for more than three minutes. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler was even more dominant in Round 3, where he struck for another takedown, smothered Harrison on the canvas and achieved full mount on two occasions.
Jenkins leaned on a suffocating clinch, timely takedowns and effective ground-and-pound, as he took a unanimous decision from Palmer in a PFL 1 featherweight showcase on April 23, 2021 at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Jenkins. Palmer appeared to get caught off-guard by the former NCAA wrestling champion’s confidence and persistence. He spent much of the 15-minute match in a state of retreat. Jenkins set the tone with a strong first round, where he executed a takedown and eventually advanced to the Ohio State University graduate’s back, cementing his position with hooks. Palmer saw his best chance at victory come and go in Round 3, as he threatened with a guillotine choke that ultimately went nowhere. The loss was Palmer’s first since March 18, 2017 and closed the book on his career-best 11-fight winning streak.
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