Rory MacDonald could not have been more efficient.
The former Bellator MMA champion dazzled in his Professional Fighters League debut, as he submitted Curtis Millender with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their 2021 PFL 2 welterweight headliner on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Millender (18-7, 0-1 PFL) bowed out 3:38 into Round 1.
MacDonald (22-6-1, 1-0 PFL) executed a takedown midway through the first round, advanced to the back and secured his position with a body triangle. He then distracted Millender with a series of heel strikes to the abdomen and calmly cinched the fight-ending choke when the Californian lowered his guard. The squeeze was too much for the CSW product to overcome.
In the welterweight co-main event, Ray Cooper III submitted Cage Warriors Fighting Championship alum Jason Ponet with a first-round arm-triangle choke. Ponet (20-14-1, 0-2 PFL) conceded defeat 1:23 into Round 1, then appeared to briefly lose consciousness.
Cooper (21-7-1, 8-2-1 PFL) caught a knee strike from the Frenchman inside the first minute and turned into a slam. He shifted from side control to half guard, at which point he framed the choke and constricted. Ponet struggled to remain lucid as the Hawaiian cut off blood flow to his brain but ultimately had no choice but to surrender.
The 28-year-old Cooper has recorded three wins in a row, all of them finishes.
Meanwhile, Joao Zeferino leaned on crisp boxing, a stout clinch and lateral movement, as he laid claim to a unanimous verdict over American Top Team’s Gleison Tibau in a three-round welterweight feature. Zeferino (25-9, 4-1 PFL) swept the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges.
The plodding nature of the 15-minute encounter did no favors for Tibau (35-15, 0-1 OFL). Zeferino pecked away with jabs, kept him off-balance with feints and threw in a few body kicks. He staggered Tibau with a straight right in the third round, then withstood a late surge from the hulking Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran.
Zeferino will carry a four-fight winning streak into his next assignment.
Finally, Nova Uniao export Emiliano Sordi waded through a grueling trench war to claim a unanimous decision over Chris Camozzi in a three-round light heavyweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Sordi (23-8, 7-1 PFL): 29-28, 29-28 and 28-27.
Camozzi (25-15, 0-1 PFL) had the exhausted Argentinian in real danger in the middle stanza, where he capitalized on a slip, assumed top position and tore into “He-Man” with ground-and-pound. However, he failed to exact enough of a toll to secure a stoppage. Sordi’s superiority in the grappling exchanges and a pivotal knockdown provided the difference. He dominated the first and third rounds with a ferocious top game that included sustained bursts of ground-and-pound and attempted chokes.
Sordi, 30, has rattled off six consecutive victories.
In other action, Antonio Carlos Jr. (11-5, 1-0 PFL) submitted Tom Lawlor (10-8, 0-1 PFL) with a guillotine choke 4:43 into the first round of their light heavyweight clash; Cezar Ferreira (14-8, 1-0 PFL) cut down Nick Roehrick (9-2, 0-1 PFL) with punches 37 seconds into the first round of their light heavyweight encounter; Marthin Hamlet (7-1, 1-0 PFL) choked Dan Spohn (18-8, 2-3 PFL) unconscious with an arm-triangle choke 52 seconds into the second round of their light heavyweight pairing; and an inadvertent Sadibou Sy (8-5, 2-3-2 PFL) eye poke resulted in a no contest with Nikolay Aleksakhin (24-5, 1-0 PFL) 1:56 into the second round of their welterweight tilt.
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