In the main event of the PFL’s 2018 World Championship show on Monday at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Magomedkerimov (23-5) defused Cooper’s highly vaunted striking with clever movement and strong grappling before finishing with a guillotine choke submission 2:18 into round two.
Until tonight, Cooper (17-6) had finished all of his 2018 opponents via strikes, including veteran Jake Shields twice. However, he had no answer for Magomedkerimov, who evaded an opening flurry and immediately took Cooper down beore threatening a rear-naked choke that Cooper gamely fought off. He sealed the deal in round two, jumping up for a guillotine as Cooper attempted to take him down.
In addition to capturing a PFL title, Magomedkerimov was also awarded with a $1,000,000 prize, as were the other evening’s championship bout winners.
The first of those prizes was won by Louis Taylor (18-4-1), who got the night off to an exciting start with a 33-second one-punch KO of Abusupiyan Magomedov (22-4-1). It was Magomedov who pressed forward early on, but he left himself open to a leaping left hook from Taylor that caught him square on the forehead and sent him stumbling to the mat. A follow-up punch by Taylor sealed the deal.
With the win, the 39-year-old Taylor also became the PFL’s champion at 185 pounds.
In one of the evening’s feel-good moments, Sean O’Connell (21-10) ended his career on the highest of notes with a third-round TKO of Vinny Magalhaes (18-10) that earned him the PFL light heavyweight title and a $1,000,000 prize. O’Connell tagged Magalhaes early, setting the tone for the rest of the bout that saw Magalhaes desperately shooting in for takedowns and repeatedly being stuffed as his energy waned.
The Brazilian grappling master had his best moment in round one, taking control of O’Connell’s back, but the submission finish eluded him. Magalhaes looked depleted in round two as O’Connell picked him apart with strikes. He beckoned Magalhaes to stand every time Magalhaes failed on a takedown attempt and flopped to his back. At the end of round three, Magalhaes’s corner had seen enough and the fighter did not come out for the fourth.
O’Connell had previously announced that his fight with Magalhaes would be the last of his 11-year career and he kept his promise, thanking the PFL, coach Jeremy Horn, and his teammates and supporters post-fight.
“I want to thank PFL for giving me this opportunity... They showed all of us a ton of respect, believed in our talent and our work ethic when maybe no other organization did,” O’Connell, a former UFC fighter, said. “They’re paying us real, life changing money, and all you’ve gotta do is win.”
“It’s never gonna be easy to walk away from this sport, but there’s no better way to do it than on a high note in front of all my friends and family at an iconic arena in American sport,” he added.
The six scheduled championship bouts were broken up by a women’s lightweight bout between two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison and Moriel Charneski. It didn’t take long for Harrison to show off her infamous grappling skills as she hurled Charneski (3-5) to the mat with a judo throw before advancing to full mount. Charneski survived that opening onslaught, only to be thrown down and mounted again and then finished with ground-and-pound at the 3:39 mark of round one.
Harrison is now poised to star in the 2019 women’s lightweight season that was announced Monday.
In heavyweight championship action, Brazil’s Philipe Lins (14-3) methodically picked apart Josh Copeland (18-6-1) en route to a fourth-round TKO stoppage and a $1,000,000 prize. It was a low volume encounter to start, with both men pawing with jabs, but Lins gradually pulled away with combinations while Copeland seemed to be hunting for a big shot that never came.
A calf kick and a left hand put Copeland down in the closing moments of round two and Lins asserted himself in round three, teeing off on Copeland, who’s defense was reduced to dipping his head forward and letting Lins’s fists bounce off of it. That strategy failed him when the fight was waved off 30 seconds into round four as Lins unleashed a torrent of knees and punches that forced the referee to step in and save the still-standing Copeland.
Brazilian Natan Schulte (15-3-1) remained undefeated in the PFL, outworking UFC vet Rashid Magomedov (22-3-1) over the course of five rounds to earn a trio of 48-46 scores. Magomedov was deducted a point in round two for an eye poke, but that did not appear to affect the final decision.
Rather it was Schulte’s non-stop pressure and timely takedowns that served to foil Magomedov. While Magomedov did an excellent job of counter-striking and showing plenty of variety and volume in the stand-up, he was unable to land anything substantial enough to sway the judges. On the other side, Schulte was successful on a total of four takedowns over the course of the bout and seemed to control a tiring Magomedov for the majority of the championship rounds.
With the win, Schulte earned himself a $1,000,000 prize and the PFL lightweight title.
Lance Palmer’s second fight with Steven Siler (32-18-1) looked a lot like their first encounter last November, and the result was the same: a Palmer unanimous decision win. This time, Palmer (17-3) had to put in another 10 minutes of work to defuse Siler, but his grinding wrestling carried him to yet another victory, with scores of 50-43, 50-45, and 49-46.
Siler had his moments to be sure, particularly at the end of round one when he appeared to wobble Palmer with a head kick, he just couldn’t sustain any offense once Palmer got hold of him.
In every round, Palmer was able to score at least one takedown and by the time the championship frames rolled around, Palmer was in complete control from the top, threatening with a rear-naked choke in round three and landing plenty of ground-and-pound.
When the PFL was known as the World Series of Fighting, Palmer twice won that promotion’s featherweight title and he can once again call himself a champion as well as a million-dollar winner.