Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the PFL and UFC on ESPN+ live on your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.
Natan Schulte won the 2018 PFL Lightweight Tournament and he seems poised to do it again; only Loik Radzhabov stands in his way of another million-dollar prize.
Schulte (19-3-1) was a man possessed on Thursday night inside Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas as he put two opponents to sleep with chokes. The Brazilian first avoided potential catastrophe in the quarterfinals against Ramsey Nijem (10-8) but he prevailed moments later. “Russo” was dropped by a wild volley of punches from Nijem, but he escaped an ensuing guillotine attempt and locked on a textbook rear-naked choke. Nijem couldn’t fight through it and eventually went to Dreamland in just 52 seconds.
Schulte continued his dominance by trading strikes and takedowns with Akhmed Aliev (19-6) before sinking his ship. Aliev was taken down about a minute-and-a-half into the second round and from there, Schulte moved to full mount. The Brazilian slowly secured an arm-triangle choke and with “Butcher” unable to free his arm, the Russian, who beat Rashid Magomedov (23-5-1) via unanimous decision in the quarters, was eventually sleeping. The end of their battle came at 2:26 of the second.
Meeting Schulte in the final will be Radzhabov, who had a much more difficult road to New Year’s Eve. Radzhabov (13-1-1) fought tooth-and-nail with Russia’s Islam Mamedov in the quarterfinals and barely got past him. Both men landed their fair share of strikes, but Mamedov (18-2) scored more takedowns in their bout. However, “Jaguar Paw” landed the cleaner, more telling punches. When the initial two rounds were complete, the bout was declared a draw. However, the judges felt that Radzhabov did more damage and was awarded the win.
In the semifinals, Radzhabov may have won every round against Chris Wade, but he was taken to the limit and was completely exhausted by the end of the third. Wade (17-6) eked past Nate Andrews (16-3) via majority decision in his first bout but was taken down repeatedly by the Tajikistani powerhouse. Wade landed plenty of strikes in the contest and took his foe down multiple times, but Wade’s gas tank eventually depleted and Radzhabov finished strongly.
In the end, all three cage side judges favored Radzhabov via tallies of 30-27, allowing him to prevail and set up a million-dollar showdown with Schulte in December.