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Playoffs: 2023 PFL 7 Play-by-Play, Results & Round Scoring

The 2023 Professional Fighters League Playoffs begin Friday in San Antonio with PFL 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET. The action airs live on ESPN+ and then continues on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.

Billy Elekana (205.4) vs. Chuck Campbell (205.8)

Round 1

Light heavyweights get the ball rolling at PFL 7. Elekana, 28, enters the cage with a 5-1 record, having defeated Tristan Overvig on the PFL Challenger Series in March. The American Kickboxing Academy’s Campbell finds himself on the rebound following a Dec. 31 knockout loss to Modestas Bukauskas in a failed bid to capture the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship light heavyweight title. Jeff Rexroad is the third man in the cage. The two men touch gloves and get down to business, with Elekana in the southpaw stance. He feeds Campbell a long straight left hand as they circle in the center of the cage. Elekana fires a kick to the midsection, then gets drawn into a clinch along the fence. The action stalls for a time, as they jockey for position at close range. Rexroad moves in and calls for the restart. Elekana throws and lands a kick to the lower leg, then turns his attention upstairs. Campbell blocks those efforts and connects with a nice left hook that gets his counterpart’s attention. Elekana answers with a spinning back kick to the body, only to trigger a multi-punch burst from Campbell. They wander back into the clinch, though neither man gains much of an advantage. Campbell tests the waters with a low leg kick and they once again engage one another in the clinch. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Elekana

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Round 2

The light heavyweight hopefuls get back to business in the center of the cage, where they trade leg kicks. Elekana looks to be the fresher fighter, and he lands a check hook as his 39-year-old opponent throw an errant overhand. Neither man looks all that willing to put his foot on the accelerator. Campbell connects with a crisp one-two but fails to back it up with anything. He shoots on a takedown, only to be stonewalled by the well-balanced Elekana. Another clinch ensues. Campbell first a knee to the gut, then another to the upper thigh. Those efforts are not enough to avoid another restart from Rexroad. Still anyone’s round. Campbell delivers another one-two and presses Elekana back into the cage before trying another takedown with less than a minute to go. Elekana buckles Campbell with a beautiful right uppercut but gains no discernable advantage. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Campbell

Round 3

Elekana takes the center of the cage and fires a rear-leg front kick into his opponent’s midsection. He doubles up on his jab and begins to switch stances. Campbell is struggling to get in gear when it matters most. Elekana backs up another front kick with a jab. Campbell flurries with punches, resets and gets bogged down in inactivity. Elekana counters a right hand with one of his own and again targets the body with a kick. With two minutes to go, this might be slipping away from Campbell. He shoots on a takedown, but Elekana braces himself against the cage and stays upright. Campbell lands a right hand at close range but cannot follow-up and runs into a knee with 10 seconds to go. Elekana cuts loose with punches and delivers a right hook as the bell sounds. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Elekana (29-28 Elekana)

The Official Result

Billy Elekana def. Chuck Campbell—Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Chelsea Hackett (125.8) vs. Ky Bennett (124.8)

Round 1

Women’s flyweights are next to the PFL 7 stage. Hackett has not fought since she suffered a second-round technical knockout loss to Victoria Leonardo on Dana White’s Contender Series nearly three years ago. Bennett, an Elevation Fight Team rep, enters her promotional debut on the heels of back-to-back victories. Kerry Hatley serves as the referee. Bennett, fighting southpaw, takes the center of the cage and catches the Australian with an overhand left. Hackett ducks into the clinch and focuses on the body and legs with knees. The distractions pay off, as Hackett secures a takedown. However, Bennett stands up almost immediately. Hackett, undeterred, goes back to work in the clinch. Bennett turns the Aussie into the cage and scores with a few knees to the midsection. Hackett controls the underhooks and trades places with Bennett. She connects with a couple of sharp knees to the gut but continues to look for trips in an effort to get the action back to the mat. Bennett denies those advances, and the women’s flyweight hopefuls continue to jockey for position. Hackett briefly dumps Bennett to the mat but fails to secure position. Soon after, they return to clinch fighting and the bell sounds. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Hackett

Round 2

They trade punches in the center of the cage, as Bennett presses forward. Hackett walks her into a crushing right hand, pushes her into the fence and completes a takedown. She moves to a more advantageous position above Bennett and ultimately forces her back to the canvas. Hackett moves into half guard, then climbs to full mount. The situation for Bennett has deteriorated rapidly. Hackett scores with a few punches and shoulder strikes and secures her position by grapevining both legs. Shen then postures with punches from both hands, cuts loose with a series of lefts, transitions to the back and gets busy on a rear-naked choke. Bennett survives but eats more punches for her troubles. With 90 seconds to go, Hackett makes another pass at the choke, controls position through a subsequent scramble and moves back to mount. Bennett turns away from contact and goes to all fours, desperation perhaps setting in. Hackett lifts the chin, slides the blade of her forearm into place and squeezes on a fight-ending choke.

The Official Result

Chelsea Hackett def. Ky Bennett—Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 4:42 R2

Anthony Ivy (171) vs. Carson Hardman (168.2)

Round 1

Welterweights now answer the call at PFL 7. Ivy made a brief two-bout stay in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2020, losing to Christian Aguilera and Bryan Barberena before being jettisoned by the organization. He has gone 2-3 in five outings since. Hardman has won three fights in a row, all of them finishes. He signed with the PFL as the Fierce Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder. Rexroad draws the officiating assignment. Hardman storms out firing heat. Ivy changes levels and shoots on a takedown but bails when his counterpart threatens the neck. He reshoots, secures a takedown and sets up in top position. Ivy settles in half guard, mixes punches with shoulder strikes and looks to pin down an arm for a topside crucifix. Hardman defends well initially. Ivy continues to pour on punishment with short punches and hammerfists. Ivy advances to the back and incidentally traps one of Hardman’s arms behind him, rendering him virtually defenseless. He bites down on the rear-naked choke and prompts the tapout.

The Official Result

Anthony Ivy def. Carson Hardman—Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:34 R1

Desiree Yanez (125) vs. Lisa Mauldin (125.2)

Round 1

The PFL 7 line moves along with women’s flyweights. Yanez made her promotional debut as part of the PFL Challenger Series in February and recorded a unanimous decision over Maira Mazar. Mauldin, meanwhile, has alternated wins and losses in each of her past six appearances. The Team Oyama product has never been finished as a pro. Hatley is the third man in the cage. The two women take no time to settle in. Yanez counters a kick with a volley of punches, undoubtedly giving Mauldin pause. Yanez catches a kick and dumps her opponent to the mat in the center of the cage. Short punches to the body follow. Mauldin springs a reversal from butterfly guard and sets up in top position. She focuses on position, with Yanez struggling for answers. Mauldin scrambles to the back and laces one hook. She then moves on the rear-naked choke and threads a second hook. From there, Mauldin lets her squeeze do the rest, as her arm slips underneath the chin and forces the tap.

The Official Result

Lisa Mauldin def. Desiree Yanez—Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:08 R1

Thad Jean (171.0) vs. Ali Omar (171)

Round 1

Welterweights close out the PFL 7 undercard. Jean, 25, improved to 5-0 on Jan. 27, when he took a unanimous decision over Eric Alequin on the PFL Challenger Series. He had fought previously in Combate Global, the Legacy Fighting Alliance, Cage Fury Fighting Championships and CES MMA. Omar has won four of his past five bouts, though one of those victories came at the expense of the notorious Jay Ellis—he of the 108 career losses. Rexroad will referee. They trade leg kicks, and while both were heavy, Jean’s was superior. The Haitian connects with a thudding straight right, follows with a leg kick and narrowly misses a head kick. He sticks Omar with another right hand and applies pressure with forward movement. Jean knocks his opponent off-balance with a right uppercut, follows up with another lightning bolt of a right hook and unleashes a torrent of standing-to-ground punches. Omar appears to go unconscious for a moment, necessitating an immediate stoppage. Absolutely vicious finish from Jean, who has the look of a potential future star for the PFL.

The Official Result

Thad Jean def. Ali Omar—TKO (Punches) 1:54 R1

Elvin Espinoza (155.6) vs. Keoni Diggs (156.4: Missed Weight)

Round 1

The PFL 7 main card kicks off with a lightweight showcase. Espinoza has raced out to a perfect 8-0 record with seven finishes, five of the first-round variety. The Kill Cliff Fight Club prospect has passed all three of his tests in the PFL, perhaps positioning himself for a shot at the 2024 regular-season roster. Diggs steps into the PFL cage for the first time on the heels of a five-fight stint in Bellator that saw him go 3-2. Hatley is the third man in the cage. No glove touch between the prospect and veteran. Espinoza clinches immediately, widens his base and briefly takes his opponent to the canvas. Diggs gets back to his feet without too much effort but struggles to free himself in the clinch. Espinoza gives him no room with which to work. He shifts his hip and scores with a body lock takedown. He settles in half guard and feeds Diggs some punches as the Hawaiian tries to get back to an upright position. They return to the clinch. Espinoza leans on him in the clinch, then scores with a beautiful judo throw. He climbs to full mount, then advances to the back. Diggs does what he can to roll out of danger and eventually recovers half guard, but he is certainly trending in the wrong direction. Espinoza blasts the Bellator veteran with right hands, but the finish he seeks does not materialize. Sherdog virtual scoring: 10-9 Espinoza

Round 2

Espinoza obliges the Hawaiian with a standup exchange to start the round, and Diggs clangs a right hook off his jaw. That approach does not last long. Espinoza punches his way into the clinch, but Diggs turns him into the cage with double underhooks. Espinoza seems unconcerned, and the two men break apart. He freezes Diggs with an overhand right, changes level and gets in on the hips once again. Espinoza separates, tries a flying knee and resets in open space. They clinch again, and Espinoza turns his counterpart into the cage, feeding him a series of knees to the thigh before securing a takedown with an outside trip. He moves to mount and slides to the back with less than a minute to go, but Diggs reclaims half guard and escapes danger for the time being. The Hawaiian builds his base and gets back to his feet, but with only 20 seconds left on the click, he has little time to shift the narrative. Diggs will need a finish in Round 3. Sherdog virtual scoring: 10-9 Espinoza

Round 3

Almost certainly the fresher fighter, Espinoza has a spring in his step to start the third round. He shoots in on the hips but fails to secure a takedown and settles for the clinch. Diggs uses double underhooks to nearly secure his own takedown, but Espinoza is wise to his plan and shuts down those efforts. They trade places along the fence. All the clinch work has to have taken a toll on both men, as the pace slows to a crawl. As they separate, Diggs lands a one-two and eats a front kick to the body. Espinoza is flirting with danger engaging the MMA Lab export in the middle of the cage. He smartly returns to the relative safety of the clinch. Espinoza is relentless in close quarters. He denies the Hawaiian’s bid for a takedown with a little more than a minute to go, then elevates him with a body lock and executes a beautiful takedown. Espinoza moves to the back but gets shaken off, allowing Diggs to escape out the back door as time expires. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Espinoza (30-27 Espinoza)

The Official Result

Elvin Espinoza def. Keoni Diggs—Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Marthin Hamlet (206.0) vs. Impa Kasanganay (203.8)

Round 1

The first of two light heavyweight semifinals is next. Hamlet was a PFL finalist at 205 pounds in 2021. The Frontline Academy export has rattled off three consecutive victories since his June 2022 technical knockout loss to Joshua Silveira. Kasanganay—perhaps best known for being highlight reeled by Joaquin Buckley in the UFC two-plus years ago—finds himself on a four-fight winning streak and appears to be hitting his stride. Rexroad officiates. Kasanganay comes out light on his feet, but Hamlet secures a takedown inside the first 30 seconds. Kasanganay gets back to his feet, but the message was sent by the Norwegian. Hamlet settles in the clinch and completes another takedown, this time with an inside trip. Kasanganay returns to an upright position and escapes into open space. He looks much more cautious now. Hamlet clips him with a right uppercut but unwisely backs himself to the fence. Kasanganay uncorks a hellacious combination—it started with a right hook to the body, continued with a right cross upstairs and ended with a right hook to the head—that floors Hamlet and results in a stunning stoppage. Kasanganay advances to the 2023 PFL light heavyweight final, where he will face either Joshua Silveira or Ty Flores for $1 million.

The Official Result

Impa Kasanganay def. Marthin Hamlet—KO (Punches) 2:24 R1

Gabriel Braga (145.8) vs. Chris Wade (146.0)

Round 1

A featherweight semifinal keeps the blood pumping at PFL 7. One of the PFL’s breakout stars of 2023, Braga sports an 11-0 record that includes a June 8 first-round technical knockout of former World Series of Fighting champion Marlon Moraes. Wade, meanwhile, replaces Movlid Khaybulaev, who withdrew from the competition for undisclosed reasons. Hatley will handle the officiating duties. They touch gloves to start. Wade pressures with punches right out of the gate, as both men switch stances with regularity. Braga keeps his cool under duress. He connects with a brutal body kick but fails to follow it with anything of substance. Wade, already bleeding from the nose, pecks away with leg kicks but walks into a left hook. Braga works behind one-twos and front kicks to the body. He has begun to find a home with his jab. Braga steps into a right hand, dodges an attempted axe kick and scores with more punches. Wade continues to invest in leg and oblique kicks. Wade times a double-leg perfectly, turns the corner and nearly climbs to the back. Braga escapes to his feet, resets and gets back to business. Win or lose, stock in the Brazilian figures to rise further. Excellent first round between these two. Neither man scores over the final 10 seconds. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Braga

Round 2

An inadvertent eye poke from Braga starts Round 2 and results in a brief respite. Wade recovers quickly, and the two featherweights pick up where they left off. Braga connects with a right cross and a left hook, but Wade completes a takedown and immediately traps the Brazilian in a high-elbow guillotine. Braga somehow frees himself but remains on the canvas with Wade attached to his hips. Alas, Wade cannot keep him down. They clinch along the fence, with Braga feeding the Long Islander shoulder strikes, before slipping back into open space. Braga continues to call on the one-twos, all while mixing in timely leg kicks and potent jabs. While Wade’s efforts on the feet are admirable, he looks outgunned here. Braga keeps pushing a merciless pace, controls the center of the cage and denies an attempted takedown. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Braga

Round 3

Wade likely needs a finish in Round 3 if he wants to reach the 145-pound final. He clips Braga with a left hook, follows with a right and continues to surprise the Brazilian with his hands. Braga delivers a left hook behind a leg kick and seems to have settled down after his initial brush with adversity. Wade paws away with his jab but gets nowhere, then pays for his lack of head movement with a crisp two-punch volley. Braga counters effectively, as his flat-footed opponent starts to look a little weary. Wade keeps moving forward and ducks in for an attempted takedown that ultimately fails. Braga maintains a wide base and stays on his feet despite Wade’s best efforts to shift him off-balance. Wade resorts to foot stomps, with frustration undoubtedly having set in. With 20 seconds left, Wade can do nothing but dot the canvas below him with drops of blood from his nose. Sherdog virtual score: 10-9 Wade (29-28 Braga)

The Official Result

Gabriel Braga def. Chris Wade—Split Decision (27-30, 30-27, 29-28)

Joshua Silveira (204.0) vs. Ty Flores (205.0)

Round 1

Kasanganay awaits the winner of this second light heavyweight semifinal. A former two-division Legacy Fighting Alliance champion, Silveira has long been viewed as one of the favorites in 2023. The 30-year-old son of famed American Top Team trainer Marcus “Conan” Silveira, he owns an 11-1 record and has delivered 10 of those victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Flores, 29, has put together four straight wins, all by decision. Rexroad is the third man in the cage. They trade leg kicks at the start. Flores applies pressure from the center of the cage. Silveira connects with two knees at close range, moves back into open space and connects with a powerful leg kick that drops Flores to a knee. He buckles Flores with another shot just above the knee soon after. As they engage one another in the clinch, Silveira flirts with a takedown before delivering a knee strike to the body. Flores is struggling to deal with the disparity in speed and athleticism. Flores leans on Silveira in the clinch but fails to consolidate his efforts with damage. Silveira circles out to the center and continues to evade punches. He catches Flores coming in with a knee, knocks him off-balance and then cuts loose with multiple knee strikes to the head that results in a stoppage. Silveira will face Kasanganay for $1 million in the 2023 PFL light heavyweight final.

The Official Result

Joshua Silveira def. Ty Flores—TKO (Knees) 4:46 R1

Bubba Jenkins (145.8) vs. Jesus Pinedo (146.4: Missed Weight)

Round 1

The second featherweight semifinal closes the show in the PFL 7 headliner. Jenkins lost to Brendan Loughnane by fourth-round TKO in the 2022 final at 145 pounds and returns as the No. 1 seed a year later. The two-time NCAA All-American wrestler needed just 85 seconds to put Sung Bin Jo to sleep with a rear-naked choke in June. Pineda, meanwhile, sprang the season’s biggest upset at PFL 4 two months ago, when he cut down the aforementioned Loughnane with a knee strike and follow-up punches just 94 seconds into their June 8 encounter. Hatley will officiate, with Braga awaiting the victor in the final. Jenkins greets Pinedo with a leg kick, then another, and shoots on the hips. Pinedo denies the top seed’s initial advances. Jenkins moves in on a low single-leg attempt, drops to a kneeling position and moves higher on the leg. Pinedo delivers a knee off the break and clips the two-time NCAA All-American with an uppercut. Jenkins looks rattled as he backs away. Pinedo floors him with a sweeping right hook, as Jenkins dives at his legs in desperation. He changes levels, secures a takedown and returns the Peruvian to the mat after he stands. Pinedo refuses to stay down. Back on his feet, he pops Jenkins with two jabs and gives chase. He follows a body kick with a chopping overhand left and has Jenkins reeling again. Pinedo drops him again, this time with a left hand and flurries for a possible finish. The bell saves Jenkins. Sherdog virtual score: Pinedo 10-8

Round 2

Pinedo, his confidence growing with each passing second, bounces, circles and hunts openings to start Round 2. Jenkins gets his jab in gear. Pinedo pops Jenkins with a compact left hook that sets him on unsteady legs again. Pinedo traps him against the fence and unleashes punches that have Jenkins ready to check out. A kneeling Jenkins dives at both legs in an attempt to rest and recover, only to be met with ground-and-pound to the body. Somehow, Jenkins scrambles into top position midway through the round, a considerable amount of his blood spilling onto his opponent and the mat. Hatley restarts them with roughly 90 seconds to go and calls the cageside doctor in to examine Jenkins’ damaged right eye. Given the OK, the fight resumes. Pinedo wobbles Jenkins with a left hand and unleashes both of his fists. Another left hook drives Jenkins to a hunched position, as Pinedo breaks free and continues to punch until Hatley decides to intervene. Pinedo will face Braga for $1 million in the 2023 PFL featherweight final.

The Official Result

Jesus Pinedo def. Bubba Jenkins—TKO (Punches) 4:40 R2
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