Rory MacDonald was sure he had done enough. The judges informed him otherwise.
Gleison Tibau sprang a stunning upset under the Professional Fighters League flag, as he took a contentious split decision from the former Bellator MMA champion in the PFL 5 headliner on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with Tibau (36-15, 1-1 PFL).
MacDonald (22-7-1, 1-1 PFL) appeared to control a majority of the action with deft footwork, a sharp jab and front kicks to the body. He did his best work in Round 1, where he scrambled onto Tibau’s back and threatened with a rear-naked choke. To his credit, the American Top Team-trained Brazilian refused to yield to those advances. Tibau fought through two eye pokes, relied heavily on his left hand and grew increasingly effective at staving off the Canadian’s bid for takedowns. It was enough to sway the judges.
Meanwhile, thudding combinations and a soul-stealing clinch carried Ray Cooper III to a unanimous decision over Nikolay Aleksakhin in the three-round welterweight co-main event. Cooper III (22-7-1, 9-2-1 PFL) swept the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 nods from the judges.
Aleksakhin (24-5, 1-0 PFL) countered effectively on occasion and cut loose with his share of heavy artillery, but he failed to maintain a manageable distance between himself and the determined Hawaiian. Cooper III pursued the clinch with purpose in the second and third rounds, mixing takedown attempts with dirty boxing and effective close-range attacks to the legs and body.
The loss was Aleksakhin’s first since Dec. 16, 2016.
Elsewhere, Nova Uniao’s Emiliano Sordi settled for a unanimous draw with Dan Spohn in a three-round light heavyweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it 28-28, as Sordi’s point deduction for punches to the back of the head came back to bite him.
Sordi (23-8-1, 7-1-1 PFL) freed himself from a rear-naked choke in the first round, reversed into top position and unleashed punches and hammerfists before advancing to the back. From there, he continued to batter Spohn with punches, a number of them connecting to the back of the head. As a result, referee Vitor Ribeiro paused the action and deducted a point from the Argentinian. Both men had their issues with fatigue—a development that turned their encounter into an outright slog over the final 10 minutes. Sordi rattled Spohn with a head kick in the middle stanza and rolled for a late leg lock, but he lacked the energy necessary to make real headway. Spohn (18-8-1, 2-3-1 PFL) answered in the third, where his stout left hand led the way and allowed him to pull even in the match.
Finally, Chris Camozzi recorded perhaps the most significant victory of his 41-fight career, as he took a unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 1 winner Cezar Ferreira in a three-round light heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Camozzi (26-15, 1-1 PFL): 29-28, 29-28 and 29-27.
Ferreira (14-9, 1-1 PFL) vaulted out to a strong start, as he paired a first-round takedown with positional control and ground-and-pound. However, he lost his hold on momentum. Camozzi floored him with a left hook in the second round, assumed top position and nearly finished it with ground-and-pound. The Factory X representative turned up the heat in the third, where he peppered the Brazilian with a consistent jab, denied his bids for takedowns and again made his way into an advantageous position on the ground. Ferreira rallied in the waning seconds, but his efforts proved to be too little too late.
In other action, Antonio Carlos Jr. (11-5, 1-0 PFL) landed an accidental knee strike to the groin, resulting in a no contest with Vinny Magalhaes (19-12, 5-3 PFL) just 2:45 into the first round of their light heavyweight confrontation; Cory Hendricks (8-3, 1-0 PFL) dispatched Marthin Hamlet (7-2, 1-1 PFL) with a rear-naked choke 4:09 into the third round of their light heavyweight scrap; Joao Zeferino (26-9, 5-1 PFL) put away Jason Ponet (20-14-1, 0-2 PFL) with an arm-triangle choke 2:16 into the second round of their welterweight clash; Magomed Magomedkerimov (27-5, 9-0 PFL) submitted Curtis Millender (18-8, 0-2 PFL) with an Ezekiel choke 1:57 into the first round of their welterweight encounter; Tom Lawlor (11-8, 1-1 PFL) laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Jordan Young (11-2, 0-1 PFL) in a three-round light heavyweight affair, drawing 30-27 scores from all three judges; and Sadibou Sy (9-5-2, 3-3-2 PFL) took a unanimous decision from Alexey Kunchenko (20-3, 0-1 PFL) in a three-round welterweight pairing, earning 29-28 marks on all three scorecards.
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