Jon Fitch had to work hard to win in the first Professional Fighters League main event in Daytona, Fla.
With the Daytona race delayed until Saturday due to the rain and fights pushed an hour earlier, the final World Series of Fighting welterweight champion met Brian Foster in a five-round non-title contest Friday night, and was caught early on in several submission attempts.
Foster jumped on a guillotine attempt in the first second of the bout and immediately worked on an armbar after Fitch escaped. From that moment on, it was all Fitch in the first round.
When the second round started, Foster came back strong and rocked the former WSOF champion with a vicious right hand. Foster hurt Fitch again with two uppercuts, but the veteran managed to get the fight to the ground and surprise with a side choke, getting his first submission win in 10 years.
“I call that a ninja choke,” Fitch said after the fight. "You put the choke In before the guy knows he’s getting choked… he’s going black before he realizes my arms are around his neck.”
Fitch improved to 6-1 in his last seven bouts, and competing under those conditions forced him to change a few things in his game.
"This mat is very slippery. It’s very humid,” he said. "I couldn’t use my in and out stuff that I used very well against Jake Shields in my last fight. My standup was kind of like what do I do?
"We get into the ground and pound and it’s slippery to posture up and do anything. I tried to maneuver and try to find a way to land effective strikes, but he was landing better strikes from his back because I was having to hold onto him to keep him in front of me. I had to wear him out with my face and then set him up for the choke."
High had a strong start, going for the finish early on, but it was too slippery to lock his multiple submission attempts. High used his wrestling once again in the second round to score points. Foster came back better in the final round, but it wasn’t enough to win a decision. In the end, all three judges scored it 29-28 for High.
Former WSOF heavyweight champion Smealinho Rama met Ronny Markes in the first fight of the night, and had no answer for the Brazilian’s takedowns. Markes, who fought for the third time in less than five months, became the first fighter to win in the PFL decagon with a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) win in a light heavyweight contest.