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Ray Cooper III and Kayla Harrison among fighters advancing to PFL Championship

(Courtesy of PFL MMA)

LAS VEGAS, N.V. – October 11, 2019 – The 2019 Professional Fighters League (PFL) Playoffs kicked off at MGM’s Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with welterweight and women’s lightweight action. Two-time Olympic Judo Gold medalist Kayla Harrison remained undefeated, while #4 seed Larissa Pacheco pulled off an upset of #1 seed Sarah Kaufman. Harrison and Pacheco advance, looking to be crowned the first-ever women’s lightweight champion. Ray Cooper and David Michaud survived the toughest night in MMA, winning twice in one night. The 2019 PFL World Championship will take place on NYE at Madison Square Garden. 

“This was a historic night for the PFL and MMA. Not only was this our Las Vegas debut, it was the first time fighters fought twice in one-night in the fight capital of the world,” said Peter Murray, CEO of the PFL. “Our format is changing the game and fans around the world witnessed tonight the potential MMA has as true sport, where fighters control their own destiny. Kayla Harrison, Larissa Pacheco, Ray Cooper III and David Michaud battled through the regular season, survived the toughest night in MMA and now are headed to Madison Square Garden on NYE with the chance to win a title and a million dollars.”

“This was an amazing night of first-class MMA action,” said Ray Sefo, President of Fighter Operations of the PFL. “In the PFL, nothing is given, everything is earned. Both #1 seeds failed to move on, showing off the depth of the league. Incredible matchups are set for the 2019 PFL World Championship.” 

The top half of the welterweight playoff bracket featured #1 seed and PFL newcomer Glaico Franca. Franca continued his dominant 2019 PFL season, defeating Andre Fialho by majority decision in the quarterfinals. Franca had an unfamiliar start to the fight, taking numerous upper-cuts from Fialho. He quickly took the fight to the ground, delivering several takedowns that proved to be decisive in the win. 

#5 David Michaud defeated #4 John Howard by unanimous decision, setting up a semifinal fight against Franca. Michaud and Howard exchanged powerful punches in an electric round one. Michaud took the fight to the ground in round two, pummeling Howard with head and body shots. 

In the semifinals, Michaud defeated Franca in a battle that went the distance, booking a spot in the 2019 PFL World Championship. In the first round, Michaud stalked Franca around the cage, applying constant pressure. In the third and final round, a bloodied Michaud landed vicious combos earning him the majority decision win. 

The bottom half of the bracket featured returning champion and #2 seed Magomed Magomedkerimov. In a rematch of PFL 4, Magomed once again defeated #7 Chris Curtis by unanimous decision, controlling Curtis on the ground to remain undefeated in the PFL. He delivered devastating combos in the second round, completing his dominating win and seemingly setting up a 2018 championship rematch with Ray Cooper III. Magomedkerimov, however, was forced to withdraw before the semifinals, unable to continue. As a result, Curtis advanced to the semifinals. 

#6 Cooper III grinded out a victory over #3 Sadibou Sy. The fight ended in a majority draw, forcing a tiebreaker where all three judges chose Cooper as the fighter who had the better overall performance. Exchanging heavy punches throughout the bout, Cooper’s takedowns and impressive ground game gave the 2018 runner-up the edge. 

In the semifinals, Ray Cooper III, with 200 friends and family in the crowd, lit up Mandalay Bay Event Center, connecting with a devastating 26.4 MPH right hook 11 seconds into round two that knocked Chris Curtis out. The fastest strike of the night sends Cooper back to New York City, where he’ll battle Michaud for the title and million dollar prize.  

In the first-ever women’s lightweight playoffs, #4 Larissa Pacheco, the youngest fighter in the division, delivered a major upset, taking down #1 Sarah Kaufman by unanimous decision. From the start, Pacheco paired damaging combos with expert ground work. Pacheco was unrelenting throughout, and a bloodied Kaufman was unable to turn the tide. 

#2 Kayla Harrison made quick work of Bobbi Jo Dalziel, securing a first-round armbar submission. Harrison dominated the match from the start, taking Dalziel to ground within seconds. Once on the ground, Harrison showcased her Judo expertise, submitting Dalziel 3:32 into the first round via armbar. The women’s lightweight championship will be a rematch of PFL 3, where Harrison defeated Pacheco by unanimous decision. 

United Kingdom featherweight and rising MMA star Brendan Loughnane opened the night on ESPN+, defeating Matt Wagy by unanimous decision in a special new fighter showcase. Loughnane is signed for the 2020 PFL Season and will be competing for the featherweight title and a million-dollar prize. His fourth straight victory improves his career record to 18-3-0.


This article first appeared at News – MMAWeekly.com


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