Professional Fighters League Signs Thad Jean on Week 1 of PFL Challenger Series
The Professional Fighters League welcomed a promising new talent into the fold on Week 1 of the PFL Challenger Series: Thad Jean.
Fast-twitch punches, well-disguised kicks and opportunistic ground-and-pound carried the unbeaten 24-year-old prospect to a unanimous decision over current Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder Eric Alequin in their three-round welterweight showcase on Friday at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. Jean (5-0, 1-0 PFL) swept the scorecards with identical 30-27 marks from the cageside judiciary.
Alequin (7-1, 0-1 PFL) connected with a few kicks to the lead leg and body but was otherwise ineffective. Jean decked him with a right hand at the end of the first round and flurried with punches for a potential finish until the bell sounded. With that, the tone was set. Jean dropped the Kill Cliff Fight Club representative with another right in Round 2, then picked his spots in the third. There, he controlled the center of the cage, countered effectively and delivered a heavy body kick that forced Alequin to retreat to his back.
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Meanwhile, Itso Babulaidze kept his perfect professional record intact and spoiled the return of Lucas Barbosa, as he took a unanimous decision from the multiple-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion in their three-round welterweight clash. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27—all for Babulaidze (3-0, 2-0 PFL).
In his first mixed martial arts appearance since Aug. 11, 2012, Barbosa (2-2, 0-1 PFL) had his moments but lacked the weaponry necessary to counteract his opponent’s advantages in the standup exchanges. Down on the scorecards, he made a significant move in the latter half of Round 3. After being taken down, a noticeably winded Barbosa swept into top position, progressed to full mount and cut loose with ground-and-pound when the arm-triangle choke he sought failed to materialize. Babulaidze, however, withstood the assault and procured the decision.
Kendly St. Louis submitted Team Link’s Nick Alley with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their catchweight clash at 175 pounds. Alley (7-6, 0-1 PFL) bowed out 2:17 into Round 2, as he suffered his third consecutive defeat.
St. Louis (8-4, 1-0 PFL), who replaced Mostafa Rashed Neda on short notice, established his superiority with an early takedown and sustained top control. Alley answered with a takedown of his own in the final minute of the first round but failed to make any substantial gains. St. Louis peppered his counterpart with jabs and combinations in the middle stanza, throwing two, three and sometimes four punches at a time. He then struck for a takedown, progressed to full mount and forced Alley to surrender his back under duress. Soon after, the fight-ending choke was in place.
The 32-year-old St. Louis has won five fights in a row.
Finally, Xtreme Couture export Zach Juusola sprang the upset and laid claim to a unanimous decision over Jozef Wittner in their three-round welterweight tilt. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Juusola (13-9, 1-0 PFL), who won for just the second time in eight outings.
Wittner (16-3, 0-1 PFL) started a slow fade midway through the first round and never seemed to get his bearings. Juusola kept him off-balance with a steady jab, forward pressure and timely takedowns. Once the action spilled onto the floor, the visibly fatigued and discouraged Wittner was a non-factor. Juusola maintained dominant positions, applied his ground-and-pound and bled time off the clock.
The setback was Wittner’s first since Oct. 25, 2019 and closed the book on his four-fight winning streak.
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