The PFL begins its 2021 season on Friday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and ends the show with “Showtime”.
Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis makes his PFL debut at the Main Event at Ocean Casino Resort and competes against a fighter who has made a name for himself in two sports. Clay Collard, a former UFC fighter who took up professional boxing and completed a five-bout streak in the boxing ring in 2020.
Their meeting is at the top of a 10-fight lightweight and featherweight map, with each division being represented by a two-time defending champion of the season. Light Natan Schulte takes over PFL Newcomer Marcin hero, a veteran of the UFC and Bellator, and Lance Palmer begins his featherweight season against former college wrestling rival Bubba Jenkins.
The last four bouts on the map will air on ESPN2 starting at 9 p.m. ET.
The PFL, This runs its season more like traditional sport than other MMA organizations (including leaderboard and playoffs) returns after a year-long hiatus. The 2021 season is the organization’s third after 2018 and 2019, as the 2020 season has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Pettis, who is 34 years old and fights out of his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, won the UFC title in 2013 and ruled until 2015. He has two wins apiece over light weight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and former UFC champion Benson Hendersonand also defeated Charles Oliveirawho will go for the UFC belt next month.
Pettis and Collard are among 14 fighters who will make their PFL debut on Friday.
Featherweight: Bubba Jenkins (3 points) def. Lance Palmer (0 points)
Full summary to come …
Brendan Loughnane, left, scored the first goal of the night at PFL 1 with his knockout to Shaemon Moraes, putting him in the best position after a featherweight bout. PFL
Loughnane started quickly, stayed ready and never gave up. He staggered Moraes with one right hand out of a clinch in the center of the cage and finished him off with another right that dropped the Brazilian against the fence.
Loughnane, a 31-year-old Englishman who signed with the PFL after the UFC failed to sign him despite a strong performance in Dana White’s Contender Series, made his PFL season competition debut after having two showcase bouts with the in 2019 Had denied promotion.
It came out with a crisp push and landed repeatedly on Moraes’ face for the first few minutes, then connected with a straight right hand, whereupon Moraes clung to it. Loughnane (20-3) broke out of the clinch with his damaged right hand and lunged at the target at 2:55 a.m. It was his sixth win in a row.
The 30-year-old Moraes has lost his last three fights and lowered his record to 11-5. He made his PFL debut despite having previously competed in the World Series of Fighting – which was later renamed the PFL – and in 2015 presented an unsuccessful challenge for the then champion Marlon Moraes.
Raush Manfio, left, didn’t land many strikes against Joilton Lutterbach at PFL 1, but the ones that landed were effective. PFL
It was about round 3. Actually it was about a moment in the middle of that last round when Manfio, who was brought to the canvas and saw the fight slide off, pushed Lutterbach away with his legs so he could climb back his feet . This allowed Manfio to work in stand-up again, where he felt most comfortable. And that allowed Manfio to make the decision.
Manfio, 29, from Brazil made his PFL debut, competing for the first time since February 2018 after several bouts were canceled. It didn’t show much rust. His impressive performance wasn’t impressive, but when he landed he made it count.
All three judges scored the bout between 29 and 28, with two favoring Manfio (12-3), who made his PFL debut.
Manfio tripped Lutterbach with a left hook in the middle of the first lap, but Lutterbach took over on lap 2 with his grappling. He seemed ready to do the same on the final lap until Manfio pushed him away and stayed in the fight.
Lutterbach, a 28-year-old Brazilian native who fights outside of Germany, dropped to 34-9, 1 NC on his PFL debut.
Akhmed Aliev, right, got off to a hot start against Mikhail Odintsov, and that early momentum was enough to lead Aliev to a unanimous decision win at PFL 1. PFL
Aliev was a 3 point winner before the fight even started because Odintsov had lost weight. Then Aliev went out and earned a decision – but no extra points.
Aliev (20-6, 3-2 PFL), 31 years old and from Russia, was a semi-finalist of the 2019 season. He started well, not only with his flashy punches, but also with a big takedown throw in the middle of the first Round and a strong takedown defense. In the other two rounds, however, he was unable to maintain his offense.
Osintsov, a 29-year-old from Belarus, lost 4/10 pounds on Thursday so he was unable to score points in this fight, his PFL debut. But he fought well, especially in Round 2 when he was the attacker in standup. But he didn’t land enough to make a decision and fell to 18-3.
All three judges scored the bout between 29 and 28 for Aliev.
Chris Wade, in the foreground, landed a series of effective hits against Anthony Dizy in Round 3 of the PFL 1 clash. This last round was good enough in the eyes of the judges to help Wade to a unanimous decision victory. PFL
Dizy had some noticeable moments in the first few seconds of the fight – he dropped Wade with bumps twice in the first 20 seconds – but most of his work was grainy and relentless as he used his Greco-Roman attack to get Wade onto the canvas bring and control him there for the greater part of two rounds.
But Wade used his own wrestling to avoid serious danger, and in Round 3 he took over. It started with his knees nailing the 32-year-old Frenchman twice in the face, a few seconds apart – the first opening a cut on the bridge of Dizy’s nose. By then, Wade looked like the fresher fighter too, but Dizy’s relentless pursuit of shutdowns was the balance. At the end of the fight, Dizy’s face was covered in blood.
It seemed Dizy would escape with a decisive victory, but all three judges scored the fight for Wade, 29-28.
Wade (18-6, 6-3 PFL), 33 years old and from Islip, New York, competed in the lightweight in the 2019 season. He looked strong at 145 pounds.
Dizy, new to the PFL, dropped to 13-4.
Jo Sungbin (left) and Tyler Diamond (right) each landed a significant number of strikes during their PFL 1 fight. Diamond ultimately made a unanimous decision. PFL
Diamond had one leg in his hand and didn’t want to let go because it was all that held him in the fight. Jo had knocked him down with his right hand in less than a minute on lap 3, and when Diamond staggered to his feet, Jo knocked him down again with one knee. Then Jo pressed him against the cage and wanted to finish.
But Diamond reached for Jo’s left leg with the instinct of a lifelong wrestler, and Diamond used that grip to get the 28-year-old South Korean onto the big screen. Diamond then went into the dominant position and rained punches for the remainder of the lap. The referee hovered nearby, begging Jo to defend himself. Jo made it to the horn, but by then his fate was sealed.
Diamond received 30-27 scorecards from all three judges in this PFL novice fight. He is 12-1 and a winner of three direct fights.
It was a fiery fight. These two wasted no time before coming up behind, hoping to get a result in the first round and earn the bonus points that came with it. 30-year-old Diamond from Sacramento, Calif., Knocked Jo (9-2, 0-1 PFL) down with a calf kick in the first few seconds. Then Jo got up and dropped Diamond with his right hand. The fight was 10 seconds old and a sign of what was to come.
Alex Martinez, above, lands a kick on Loik Radzhabov. Martinez won the opening bout of the 2021 PFL season by separate decision. PFL
Martinez spent much of the fight on his back, defeated seven times by Radzhabov. But Martinez was the assailant who landed punches and completed submission attempts, and that was enough for him to get the nod from two of the three judges to remain undefeated.
Radzhabov (13-3-1, 2-3-1 PFL), an easy finalist in the PFL’s 2019 season, had the early grappling advantage, taking two takedowns before the first round was halfway over. The 30-year-old from Tajikistan did little with the positional advantage, however, as Martinez (8-0, 1-0 PFL) defended well on site. Then Martinez reversed his position, climbed into the top, and advanced towards the full mount.
When the fight was up and running from striking distance, Martinez had a clear advantage. But the fight mostly took place in brackets against the cage and on the canvas, and even there, the 26-year-old, who was born in Paraguay and fights outside of Canada, always seemed able to avoid trouble. It also stayed fresher down to the last horn.
One judge gave Martinez a 30-27 scorecard and the other two were split, each scoring the bout 29-28.
How to watch the fights
Check out the main map on ESPN2. Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access.
There are also FightCenter, which offers live updates for every PFL card.
To come …
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis (24-10, 0-0 PFL) versus Clay Collard (18-8, 1 NC; 0-0 PFL)
Lightweight: Natan Schulte (20-3-1, 9-0-1 PFL) against Marcin Held (26-7, 0-0 PFL)