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Linton Vassell Victorious at PFL 4; Dakota Ditcheva, Denis Goltsov Snatch Top Seeds


Linton Vassell managed to dig just a little bit deeper.

In his first headlining assignment with the Professional Fighters League, the Kill Cliff Fight Club standout scratched, clawed and willed his way to a split decision over Valentin Moldavsky atop PFL 4 on Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Eric Colon for Moldavsky, Sal D’Amato and Bryan Miner for Vassell (24-9, 1-1 PFL).

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Moldavsky (13-4, 1-1 PFL) leaned on takedowns, intermittent ground-and-pound and positional control but ultimately failed to establish a sense of superiority in the trilogy bout between the two rivals. Vassell connected with the most significant strike of the match late in the second round, where he broke free from a clinch and decked the Fedor Emelianenko protege with a perfectly timed knee strike on the break. Otherwise, the two combatants struggled to separate themselves in a grimy back-and-forth affair.

The 41-year-old Vassell has won six of his past seven bouts and now holds a 2-1 edge in his head-to-head series with the Russian.

Not all was lost for Moldavsky, as he clinched the No. 3 seed at heavyweight in the PFL playoffs and moves on to face the second-seeded Oleg Popov—a longtime teammate—in the semifinals in August. Popov (18-1, 2-0 PFL) helped himself to three points with a three-round unanimous decision over Davion Franklin (7-2, 1-0 PFL) in their regular-season heavyweight pairing, netting 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25 scores from the cageside judges.

Meanwhile, American Top Team’s Dakota Ditcheva kept her perfect professional record intact and did so in resounding fashion, as she wrecked Chelsea Hackett with punches in the first round of their women’s flyweight co-main event. Hackett (4-3-1, 1-2 PFL) met her end 3:22 into Round 1, losing for the third time in four appearances.

Ditcheva (12-0, 7-0 PFL) abused the Aussie’s lower extremities with kicks, sat her down with a clean one-two during one of their initial standup exchanges and held serve in the clinch. Hackett went nowhere with her attempted takedowns. Ditcheva backed the Dana White’s Contender Series alum to the fence under considerable duress, blasted her with a left hook to the body and ripped way with punches to the head until the job was done.

The stoppage brought the 25-year-old Ditcheva six points in the regular-season standings and allowed her to nail down the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds. She next faces the fourth-seeded Jena Bishop in the semifinal round of the PFL playoffs later this summer.

Related » 2024 PFL 4 Regular Season Round-by-Round Scoring


Further down the bill, former Absolute Championship Akhmat titleholder Denis Goltsov took care of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” Season 2 quarterfinalist Thiago Santos with punches in the first round of their heavyweight showcase. A short-notice substitution for Sergey Bilostenniy, Santos (22-13, 0-2 PFL) succumbed to blows 2:22 into Round 1.

Goltsov (34-8, 12-3 UFC) clipped the Brazilian with a check hook inside the first minute, drove into top position, climbed to full mount under threat of an arm-triangle and eventually wheeled behind him. Santos briefly stood, only to be dragged back to the canvas. Goltsov unleashed his ground-and-pound, forced his now-prone opponent into a defenseless shell and continued the assault until it was called off.

The victory was Goltsov’s seventh in eight outings and brought the 34-year-old sambo practitioner six more points in the regular-season standings. He locked up the No. 1 seed with the stoppage and advances to confront fourth-seeded Tim Johnson in the semifinal round of the PFL playoffs in August. Johnson (18-9, 1-0 PFL) banked six points in his promotional debut, as he overcame a devastating low blow and stopped Danilo Marques (15-6, 3-2 PFL) with punches 3:14 into the first round of their regular-season heavyweight encounter. Finally, reigning Bellator MMA champion Liz Carmouche dismissed Kana Watanabe with an armbar in the third round of their women’s flyweight feature. Watanabe (13-3-1, 1-1 PFL) checked out 4:52 into Round 3, suffering the first submission defeat of her 17-fight career.

It was a dogfight up until the finish. They clinched often and exchanged dominant positions on the ground throughout the first 10 minutes. Watanabe flirted with a deep arm-triangle late in the middle stanza and gave her counterpart fits with her pressure and persistence. Carmouche (22-7, 2-0 PFL) turned the tables with power punches in the third round, where she floored the Japanese judoka with a right hook-left hook combination and snapped back her head with a lunging uppercut. Watanabe refused to give in. She powered into top position midway through Round 3 and hunted another arm-triangle setup, only to leave a limb exposed. Carmouche rolled into the armbar, activated her hips, prompted the tapout and exited the cage with four points in the 125-pound standings.

The 40-year-old Carmouche has won nine fights in a row and now owns a 2-0 advantage in her head-to-head series with Watanabe, having punched out the Fighter’s Flow rep in their first meeting back in June 2021. She also secured the No. 3 seed at 125 pounds and moves on to meet the second-seeded Taila Santos in the semifinal round of the PFL playoffs later this summer. Santos (21-3, 2-0 PFL) collected three points with a three-round split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over the aforementioned Bishop (7-1, 1-1 PFL) in the featured women’s flyweight prelim.

In other action, Tyrell Fortune (14-2, 1-0 PFL) walked away with three points, as he laid claim to a three-round unanimous verdict—30-27, 30-27, 30-26—against Marcelo Golm (10-6, 0-2 PFL) in their regular-season heavyweight battle; Ilara Joanne (12-9, 1-1 PFL) earned three points with a three-round unanimous decision over Shanna Young (9-8, 1-2 PFL) in their regular-season women’s flyweight tilt, drawing 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 marks from the cageside judges; Juliana Velasquez (13-3, 1-1 PFL) pocketed five points, as she disposed of Lisa Mauldin (6-5, 2-2 PFL) with punches 1:30 into the second round of their regular-season women’s flyweight pairing; and Sumiko Inaba (7-1, 1-0 PFL) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over Saray Orozco (8-6, 0-1 PFL) in a three-round women’s flyweight contest.
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