Natan Schulte is the PFL’s new lightweight leader after putting on an impressive performance Thursday.
The 26-year-old Brazilian took out veteran Jason High (21-8) with a first-round rear-naked choke submission in the main event of PFL 5 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
Schulte’s aggression paid off big time as he waded through High’s counter-striking to score a trip and implement his grappling game. Though High was able to shrug off the early attempt at control, a perfectly timed leg kick by Schulte tripped High down to the mat again and he landed right in High’s half guard.
A scramble situation materialized and Schulte made the most of it, taking High’s back and locking in a tight choke. High refused to tap and as he went unconscious, Schulte immediately recognized that the fight was over and released the submission hold before referee Dan Miragliotta even had time to jump in and call off the fight.
The official time of the stoppage was 4:18 of round one.
High was so disoriented afterwards that he threw a knee at Miragliotta’s body as the in-cage official attempted to help him up. Miragliotta laughed off the inadvertent attack, which could have been handled much worse given High’s previous incidents with referees.
Having trained with High in the past, Schulte had nothing but respect for his opponent following their fight.
“Jason High is a guy I admire a whole lot,” Schulte said. “Tough to fight a guy this way but it is what it is. Happy to be 2-0 and I’m gonna take this momentum to the playoffs. Thank God.”
Schulte (13-3) picked up six points for the first-round finish and now sits atop the PFL lightweight leaderboard heading into the playoffs with nine points overall.
In the light heavyweight co-main event, Vinny Magalhaes (16-9, 1 NC) made short work of former Bellator middleweight champion Brandon Halsey (11-4). Magalhaes came out firing, cracking Halsey with a leg kick before later going high with a head kick that left Halsey on his knees. From side position, Magalhaes fired away with punches until the referee called a stop to the bout 94 seconds into round one.
This was Magalhaes’s second first-round finish in as many appearances for the PFL, giving him 12 points and the top light heavyweight seed heading into the postseason.
“This is the second fight in a row that my wife and kids have called the finishing move,” Magalhaes said after the fight. “My kid told me to land the high kick and it was there. We’ll see what they call for next time in the playoffs.
“It feels good to be the number one seed and I’m ready to show everyone I’m the guy who is going to win it all.”
Former Bellator lightweight champion and UFC veteran Will Brooks (20-4) earned himself a playoff spot with a grappling-heavy unanimous decision over Robert Watley (11-2). Brooks made it clear that his plan was to grab onto Watley and pressure him against the cage for 15 minutes, and he executed that strategy to perfection while also mixing in submission attempts.
Though Watley showed solid takedown defense, he was unable to do much more than hold off Brooks until he was tripped or dragged down to the mat. Brooks came closest to finishing in round two with a rear-naked choke attempt, but Watley defended well and made it to the final frame.
Unfortunately, outside of a late flurry, Watley was unable to initiate much offense with Brooks smothering him and “Ill Will” went on to sweep the scorecards with a trio of 30-27s.
Both fighters will advance to the postseason with Watley having entered the night with six points after scoring a dubious low blow victory over Thiago Tavares at PFL 2.
Post-fight, Brooks addressed the fans who booed his grinding performance, saying that they don’t pay his bills or his mortgage and that his focus was on the seven-figure PFL championship prize.
“I told everyone when I signed up for this I was coming for that $1 million,” Brooks said. “I’m not playing around in here, I hear them boo but they don’t bother me at all. I have two kids now and that is a lot of diapers to buy. I dominated him the entire fight and it’s just the next step to me winning this whole thing.”
Light heavyweight standout Maxim Grishin (28-7) added another five points to his score, recording a second-round rear-naked choke submission of Rakim Cleveland (19-10-1, 1 NC). Grishin established early that he was going to take Cleveland down, then peppered Cleveland with leg kicks to frustrate him when the fight returned to the feet.
Cleveland threatened with a guillotine attempt in round two, but Grishin was able to pop his head out and settle into half guard. From there, he gradually worked his way to back mount, where he flattened Cleveland out to set up the fight-ending submission 4:03 into the period.
With 11 points, Grishin currently sits in the No. 2 spot in the light heavyweight standings behind Magalhaes.
Rashid Magomedov (21-2) outworked Luiz Firmino (20-10) to earn three much-needed points and sneak into the lightweight playoffs. The UFC veteran was forced to defend against a rear-naked choke early in round one, but he was able to sweep and finish the opening period on top of Firmino.
From there, Magomedov found his range and he picked Firmino apart for the remainder of the fight en route to a unanimous decision win. His striking and takedown defense was simply too much for Firmino, and the one-time World Series of Fighting title challenger sees his PFL season end with two losses and zero points.
Complete PFL 5 results can be found here. Updated standings for the light heavyweight and lightweight season can be seen below.
- *Vinny Magalhaes — 12 points
- *Maxim Grishin — 11 points
- *Dan Spohn — 7 points
- Sean O’Connell — 5 points
- Brandon Halsey — 4 points
- Rakim Cleveland — 4 points
- Bozigit Ataev — 0 points
- Rashid Yusupov — 0 points
- Smealinho Rama — 0 points
- Ronny Markes — 0 points
- Jason Butcher — 0 points
- Jamie Abdallah — 0 points
- e- Artur Alibulatov — 0 points
- *Natan Schulte — 9 points
- *Will Brooks — 6 points
- *Islam Mamedov — 6 points
- *Chris Wade — 6 points
- *Robert Watley — 5 points
- *Brian Foster — 4 points
- *Rashid Magomedov — 3 points
- Thiago Tavares — 3 points
- Jason High — 0 points
- Ramsey Nijem — 0 points
- e- Luiz Firmino — 0 points
- e- Arthur Estrazulas — 0 points
- e- Yuki Kawana — 0 points
- e- Efrain Escudero — 0 points
* clinched playoff birth
e- eliminated from playoff contention