PFL Sets Tone for Major MMA Weekend with 10 Finishes in Las Vegas

Reigning Professional Fighters League light heavyweight tournament champion Impa Kasanganay brutally took his first step toward defending his title with a first-round TKO win over former Bellator MMA bruiser Alex Polizzi in the PFL 2: 2024 Regular Season main event at The Theatre at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Friday.

Kasanganay (16-4) went into the SmartCage with pressure to live up to the seven-straight finishes that proceeded him. If the Kill Cliff FC stud were going to keep up in the standings, he would have to dispatch the former Northwestern wrestler in the opening minutes. Polizzi looked to grapple with Kasangany but was only met with leather to the face. Kasangany battered Polizzi with both hands until he could barely stand on his own, and referee Marc Goddard was forced to save the day just 3:29 into the match.

The win might've capped off a violent night but did nothing to separate Kasanganay from the rest of the pack. Fellow light heavies Rob Wilkinson, Joshua Silveira, Antonio Carlos Jr. and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov each finished their foes in the first round. The light heavyweights return to action on June 21 in Salt Lake City.

PFL 2022 light heavyweight tournament winner Wilkinson (18-2) watched from the sidelines for most of last season as another fighter claimed the $1 million prize. It was his own fault, having been suspended for failing a post-fight drug test. Looking for redemption and his spot back on top, the Aussie took his first step back up the mountain with a brutal first-round finish (1:10) of England’s Tom Breese.

Breese isn’t a pushover and has won in some of the toughest promotions in the world, but stood no match against Wilkinson’s power. With the first jab, he was forced to retreat and cover up, and Wilkinson didn’t hesitate to go for the kill. With Breese trapped against the fence, “Razor” sliced through the guard with a shoulder punch and knee to the head, dropping Breese in the process. Breese was like a helpless lamb as Wilkinson reigned unanswered hammer fists until referee Herb Dean was forced to call him off. Wilkinson couldn’t afford to let Breese out of the first round since three light heavyweights before him also secured first-round finishes. If he’s going to make it to the playoffs, every punch and every second counts.

Related » 2024 PFL 2 Round-by-Round Scoring

PFL fan-favorite Clay Collard and former Bellator lightweight kingpin Patricky Freire delivered on their pre-fight hype and kept fans on the edge of their seats. In the first round, the 38-year-old former champ smoothly forced Collard to give up his four-inch reach and follow along the cage. With perfect timing, Freire dropped “Cassius” flat on his back and went in for the finish. Last year’s PFL lightweight runner-up refused to be derailed and climbed back to his feet. Now wiser, Collard worked behind his jab and kept the shorter man on the end of his punches.

By the end of the frame, Collard had nearly retaken the momentum and went to his corner with the smell of blood in his nostrils. By Round 2, Collard had Freire figured out and in danger. With Pitbull’s back pinned against the fence, the Utah native let go of everything in his arsenal before the fight was mercifully stopped at 1:32. With the second-round finish, Collard put himself into a three-way tie for first place in the standings with Brent Primus and Michael Dufort.

Dufort is a promising prospect who’s starting to put it all together. Still, his regular season bout against experienced Bellator contender Mads Burnell would serve as a great measuring stick. Early in the fight, Burnell’s patience and poise in the pocket made Dufort miss at will, but the Canadian never stopped throwing.

Burnell (18-6) banked the first round, but his calmness would lead to his downfall soon after. Trapped against the fence, Burnell looked to slip and counter but was clipped by a front kick to the face and another to the midsection. Burnell’s legs buckled, and he lowered right into Dufort’s guillotine. The submission was so smooth many were left confused by what happened. One minute, Dufort was swinging like he was at the driving range, and then Burnell was tapping for his life the next. Dufort (13-4) came into the lightweight tournament as an underdog under a plethora of experienced names, but the 30-year-old put everybody on notice with his flashy 5-point statement at the 1:03 mark.

You’ve got to hand it to Sadibou Sy; that was a terrible way to lose a fight. The former welterweight tournament winner moved up 25 pounds to throw leather with last season’s light heavyweight runner-up, Silveira. He was forced to quit in just 1:14 after dislocating his thumb in the opening minutes.

Silveira (13-2) is a talented wrestler and was in the midst of securing a single-leg takedown when Sy (16-8-2) posted his hand on the canvas. The Swede’s thumb went out of socket immediately and referee Marc Goddard hurried over to stop the fight. With the win, Silveira became the third straight light heavyweight to secure a six-point finish.

PFL 2021 light heavyweight champion Carlos Jr. has had a rough couple of years. After tearing his ACL and then having a controversial stint on Brazilian reality television, the American Top Team grappler was prepared to remind the field that he’s the real deal. He did exactly that with a first-round submission of Simon Biyong.

Towering over Carlos at 6-foot-6, Biyong tried to keep the fight on the feet but had no answers for the former Jiu-Jitsu world champion. Once Carlos took the back, it was the beginning of the end, and all Biyong could do was tap or go to sleep at 4:34 of the first.

2023 PFL Europe light heavyweight king Jakob Nedoh has been on a violet tear of eight-straight knockouts but ran into an even stronger animal Friday night. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (22-7-1) dog-walked Nedoh with overhand rights and uppercuts until the Slovenian could barely stand.

Nedoh was out on his feet and ripe for the TKO, but the 30-fight veteran wisely picked his final shot — a crisp overhand right — to put the icing on his six-point first-round knockout. The official time was 2:54 of the first.

At 38, Primus proved that he still has more than enough gas in the tank to make a run at the 2024 PFL lightweight crown. The former Bellator kingpin rag-dolled Bruno Miranda throughout the first round and pounded the Brazilian with punches from behind his back. Miranda would survive to hear the bell, but his misery wouldn’t last much longer, as Primus ended his night with a rear-naked choke 1:49 into the second round.

With the five-point finish, Primus (13-3) put himself in the running to make the lightweight playoffs.

Former Bellator lightweight Gadzhi Rabadanov notched his seventh straight win on Friday after outwrestling Cleveland’s Solomon Renfro over three rounds (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Renfro (11-5) competed in the PFL welterweight tournament last season and made the semifinals. The natural lightweight looked strong and fast in Round 1 — getting the better of Rabadanov in exchanges — but his energy dropped drastically in the second frame. By the third round, there was nothing Renfro could do to break Rabadanov’s body lock. Rabadanov (21-4-1) stayed out of harm’s way and made Renfro carry his weight while keeping him busy with non-threatening rear-naked choke attempts. A post-fight dust-up nearly unfolded but the pair was separated.

Elvin Espinoza could feel his undefeated record slipping away, so he went for broke. Down two rounds to none to former Bellator lightweight Adam Piccolotti, Espinoza won his 10th straight with a devasting flying knee knockout in the third round.

Piccolotti (14-6) had little problems with the Nicaraguan prodigy, keeping him guessing with stance switches and fluid wrestling. Espinoza was too focused on landing a haymaker throughout the first two rounds and was routinely beaten to the punch. Heading into Round 3, all Piccolotti needed to do was coast his way to three points in the standings, but an ill-advised shot left him vulnerable to Espinoza’s switch knee. The end came at 2:23 of the final period.

Marcelo Nunes (11-2) has never been past the second round in his career, and Jordan Heiderman found out why. The Brazilian submitted former “The Ultimate Fighter” contestant via armbar 2:40 into the first round of their heavyweight showcase.

Heiderman (7-2) accepted this fight on a week's notice and looked aggressive early. Heiderman backed up Nunes toward the fence but was left vulnerable when the Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu product reversed and took his back. The Nebraska native wrestled his way back into guard but left himself open for a triangle choke. Heiderman squirmed, but Nunes morphed his submission into a triangle — picking up his second straight win while Heiderman dropped his second consecutive in the SmartCage.

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