Larissa Pacheco Shocks Kayla Harrison in 2022 Professional Fighters League Final
Never tell Larissa Pacheco the odds.
The heavy-handed and resourceful Brazilian sprang a monumental upset under the Professional Fighters League banner and captured a unanimous decision from two-time Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison, as their women’s lightweight final headlined the 2022 PFL Championships on Friday at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. Pacheco (19-4, 8-2 PFL) swept to power behind 48-47 scorecards from all three judges, earning $1 million in the process.
Harrison (15-1, 14-1 PFL) followed a familiar path in the first round, where she looked to be in prime form. She tripped Pacheco to the canvas, applied oppressive top control and racked up points with body-head ground-and-pound, throwing punches with varying intensity. However, Harrison did not exact enough of a toll to discourage the former Jungle Fight champion. Pacheco rebounded in the second round, seized the initiative with an attempted guillotine choke and put the American Top Team star on notice. From there, they tested one another in a series of back-and-forth exchanges, on the feet, in the clinch and on the ground. Harrison secured multiple takedowns, but she either wandered into danger through submissions—she found herself trapped in a triangle choke in the third round—or was met with ferocious resistance from Pacheco’s hyperactive bottom game, as the Joao Bastos protégé snapped off rapid-fire punches and hammerfists from her back.
When it came time for the decision to be read, Harrison’s face carried a look of resignation. Those doubts proved to be well-founded.
Loughnane Breaks Down Jenkins
Brendan Loughnane took out former Brave Combat Federation titleholder and onetime NCAA wrestling champion Bubba Jenkins with punches in the fourth round of their featherweight final. Loughnane (25-4, 8-1 PFL) sealed the deal 2:38 into Round 4 and walked away with the $1 million check at 145 pounds.
Jenkins (19-6, 5-2 PFL), to no one’s surprise, was a tough out. Loughnane tore into his lower leg with kicks, resulting in the formation of a grotesque hematoma before the first round was over. The damage compromised Jenkins’ base and prompted him to switch stances throughout the bout, forcing him out of his comfort zone. Nevertheless, he opened a cut on the bridge of Loughnane’s nose with a consistent jab and connected with an occasional power punch of his own. Despite his grit, the situation became untenable for Jenkins. Loughnane, a polished closer at this stage of his career, hit the accelerator in Round 4 and delivered a thudding right hand that knocked his counterpart off-kilter. Jenkins retreated to the cage, where he was blitzed with punches and one last knee strike that led referee Bryan Miner to intervene on his behalf.
Loughnane has pieced together four straight victories since his split decision loss to the unbeaten Movlid Khaybulaev in August 2021.
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Delija Flurry Buries Scheffel
Ante Delija put away Dana White’s Contender Series alum Matheus Scheffel with punches in the first round of their heavyweight final. A protégé of the great Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Delija drew the curtain 2:50 into Round 1 and cashed in on a life-changing $1 million payday.
Scheffel (17-9, 2-2 PFL) found a home for a few left hooks but could not keep the Croatian at bay. Delija staggered the CM System product with a left hook of his own, pinned him to the fence with follow-up punches and connected with several straight rights that made the Brazilian fold at the base of the cage.
Delija, 32, now has 13 first-round finishes to his credit.
Ladd Sneaks Past Budd
Ultimate Fighting Championship castaway Aspen Ladd eked out a contentious split decision over onetime Bellator MMA champion Julia Budd in a three-round women’s featherweight showcase. All three members of the cageside judiciary scored it 29-28: Tim Corrado and Dave Tirelli for Ladd, Sal D’Amato for Budd.
Ladd (10-3, 1-0 PFL) enjoyed a dominant first round, where she caught a kick, delivered a takedown and advanced to the back during an ensuing scramble. The MMA Gold Fight Team rep flattened out Budd on multiple occasions, applied her ground-and-pound and piled up plenty of control time. The two women spent the final 10 minutes engaged in a back-and-forth clinch and standup battle in which neither of them managed to gain separation. Budd (16-5, 2-1 PFL) performed well in close quarters but lacked the oomph and output to curry enough favor with the judges.
The victory was Ladd’s first since Dec. 7, 2019.
Aubin-Mercier Hook Blindsides Ray
Tristar Gym’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier wiped out former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder Steven Ray with a sweeping right hook in the second round of their lightweight final. Ray (25-11, 2-2 PFL) met his demise 4:40 into Round 2, suffering his first knockout loss in more than three years.
Aubin-Mercier (17-5, 6-0 PFL)—who pocketed $1 million in victory—seized the reins with a fast start, as he stepped into thudding left hands and a series of damaging kicks to the lower leg. Ray appeared to turn the tide in the second round, where he surprised the Canadian judoka with a takedown, transitioned to the back and anchored himself with a body triangle. Aubin-Mercier was cool under duress and eventually escaped to an upright position. He then circled on the outside and snuck a right hook over Ray’s defenses, the impact of the concussive blow dropping the Scotsman where he stood. No follow-up shots were necessary.
The 33-year-old Aubin-Mercier has won six fights in a row.
Disciplined Sy Downs Taylor
A committed, technical approach spearheaded by body and leg kicks carried Sadibou Sy to a unanimous decision over former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Dilano Taylor in the five-round 2022 PFL welterweight final. All three cageside judges struck 49-47 scorecards for Sy (13-6-2, 7-4-2 PFL), who pocketed the $1 million prize at 170 pounds.
Taylor (10-3, 3-2 PFL) struggled to manage distance effectively and allowed the Swede to snipe him from the outside for much of the match. Sy paired stance switches with a steady jab from both hands, circled away from danger and excelled at keeping the exchanges at his desired range. Taylor did his best work in the second and fourth rounds, where he crowded the Xtreme Couture product in the clinch and consolidated those efforts with short-range punches and knees. However, he failed to maximize those gains and lost his tenuous grip on momentum, at which point Sy resumed his assault on the legs and body.
Sy, 35, will ride a three-fight winning streak into his 2023 campaign.
Violent Wilkinson Mauls Akhmedov
Former Hex Fight Series champion Rob Wilkinson forced a cut-induced doctor stoppage against Omari Akhmedov in the 2022 PFL light heavyweight final. Akhmedov (24-8-1, 3-2 PFL) was deemed unfit to continue between the second and third rounds, closing the book on his three-fight winning streak.
Wilkinson (17-2, 4-0 PFL), who banked $1 million for his efforts, had far too much horsepower for the undersized American Top Team representative. He cut loose with power punches from both hands—his right uppercut was particularly effective—and walked through the return fire from a game but outmatched Akhmedov, which included crushing leg kicks and a handful of overhand rights. Wilkinson hacked open a gnarly diagonal cut on the right brow with a well-placed knee late in the second round, pushed his fading counterpart to the fence and unleashed a hellacious burst of punches that nearly ended it there. Akhmedov made it to the bell, but the cageside physician declined to allow him to go any further.
The 30-year-old Akhmedov has rattled off six consecutive victories, all of them finishes.
Prelims: Sheymon Moraes, Natan Schulte Net Finishes
Sheymon Moraes (15-6, 4-2 PFL) rallied from a two-rounds-to-none deficit to cut down Marlon Moraes (23-11-1, 1-1 PFL) with punches 58 seconds into the third round of their featherweight encounter; Natan Schulte (23-5-1, 12-2-1 PFL) disposed of Jeremy Stephens (29-21, 1-2 PFL) with an arm-triangle choke 1:32 into the second round of their lightweight tilt; Magomed Magomedkerimov (30-6, 12-1 PFL) laid claim a unanimous decision over Gleison Tibau (37-17, 2-3 PFL) in a three-round catchweight clash contested at 175 pounds, drawing 30-27 scores from all three cageside judges; Dakota Ditcheva (7-0, 2-0 PFL) took care of Katherine Corogenes (3-1, 0-1 PFL) with punches 4:20 into the first round of their women’s flyweight pairing; and Biaggio Ali Walsh—the 24-year-old grandson of Muhammad Ali—punched out a woefully overmatched Tom Graesser a mere 45 seconds into the first round of their amateur lightweight affair.
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