Scouting Report: Kayla Harrison

Stream Nov. 25's 2022 PFL World Championship exclusively on ESPN+. Purchase now at https://plus.espn.com/pfl/ppv.

Kayla Harrison

Born: July 20, 1990 (Age: 32) in Middletown, Ohio
Division: Women’s Lightweight
Height: 5’8”
Reach: 66”
Record: 15-0 (14-0 PFL)
Association: American Top Team
Stage of Career: Prime

Summary: Harrison is undeniably one of the strongest women to ever compete in mixed martial arts, and she features some of the best overall grappling. That includes textbook, powerful submissions and brutal, unrelenting ground-and-pound—the latter made even more impressive when considering the Professional Fighters League bans elbows to a downed opponent. It has been more than enough to dominate every single opponent Harrison has encountered. She has also proven to have solid cardio, having gone five rounds with no trouble. Less is known about her striking, but what she has shown thus far looks weak and limited. Harrison has been wise to stick to her strengths.


Stance: Southpaw.
Hand Speed: Below average.
Jab: Weak and pawing. Barely worth considering.
Cross: A painfully telegraphed, reaching shot that makes it easy for opponents to counter her.
Right Hook: Does not throw it.
Overhand Left: A technically flawed blow, as the hand flops badly.
Uppercuts: Does not throw them.
Solitary Striker or Volume Puncher: Solitary striker.
Favorite Combinations: Does not throw them.
Leg Kicks: Fails to turn her hips into the strikes, lessening their impact.
Body Kicks: Powerful but a little uncoordinated, with poor accuracy.
Head Kicks: Shows good flexibility, but they are somewhat weak and slow, especially given her overall strength.
Chains Kicks to Punches: No.

What Harrison has shown in the striking department has been poor, so she wisely concentrates on her area of dominance: grappling. She has solid defense and nice footwork, making it difficult for opponents to land strikes of their own. In terms of standup offense, kicks are her main weapons, though none of them are of the top-shelf variety. Her left cross only opens her up to counters, nothing more. Defense and footwork keep her safe until she can begin grappling.


Physical Strength: An all-time great in this area.
Technique: Sublime. Always in perfect position.
Knees: Active in throwing them, but they lack power.
Elbows: Does not use them.
Defense Against Knees/Elbows: Excellent, largely because opponents are for more concerned with being takedown.

Harrison is an unstoppable force in the clinch who can take down virtually everyone she faces with ease thanks to her physical strength and technique, both of which rank among the best in women’s mixed martial arts history.


Wrestling from a Shot: Not her preferred way to get a takedown, but she did finish a single-leg against Pacheco. She snapped down it, although her entry was dubious—a little slow and telegraphed—and exposed her to strikes. Strength makes up for many deficiencies, though.
Wrestling in the Clinch: Features an array of irresistible trips, hip tosses and other techniques. She is especially fond of the turning outside trip.
Takedown Defense: Likely excellent, though few have even attempted to get her to the ground.
Ability to Return to Feet: Not a skill she has needed yet.
Submissions: Wields an absolutely gorgeous armbar, but she can finish through other means, as she did via arm-triangle in her most recent outing against Martin Jindrova.
Defense/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from the Bottom: Harrison has not yet found herself in bottom position, but she managed to turn into Pacheco with sheer power when her back was taken.
Top Control: Occasionally gives opponents a little too much space to get up, especially when she takes the back. However, few have been able to take advantage of this opening.
Ground-and-Pound: Throws a never-ending stream of vicious, accurate punches while using her body well. This is made more impressive considering that the PFL bans elbows to a downed opponent. Harrison would be far more dangerous with that weapon in play.

Harrison will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest female grapplers in history. She is unstoppable with her takedowns from the clinch, though she can get them from a shot, too. Once on top, she exerts some of the best ground-and-pound in the sport, with a series of constant, accurate punches. Her ground-and-pound would be even more lethal if the PFL allowed elbows to a downed opponent. Harrison’s top control is quite good but not perfect, though it has rarely been exploited. Her submissions are also top-notch, and she can finish with more than just her fantastic armbar.


Athleticism/General Physical Strength: Perhaps the most powerful woman we have seen in MMA, with fantastic natural tools befitting a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Cardio: Holds up into the fifth round, where she looks marginally depleted but less so than her opponents.
Chin: She has never been hit with a clean punch.
Recuperative Powers: Unknown.
Intelligence: Exemplary thus far, as she has given opponents absolutely no chances to beat her.
Latest News


Who was most impressive in victory over the weekend?