Through luck and a little bit of controversy, that’s exactly what he got.
Rama (11-4), the former WSOF heavyweight champion, pulled a rabbit out of his hat to secure a second-round TKO victory via doctor’s stoppage over Jamie Abdallah (7-4) on Thursday night at Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Because of the PFL’s point format, both Rama and Abdallah needed either a first- or second-round finish to land a playoff spot. That desperation was on display early, as Rama and Abdallah engaged in a bloody firefight that saw both men swing with reckless abandon throughout the opening round. The pace then slowed in the second, as Rama seized momentum by swelling up Abdallah’s left eye with punches and nearly seal the deal with a series of close rear-naked choke attempts.
But there would be no climactic resolution to the back-and-forth war of attrition.
Because of the damage to Abdallah’s eye, the cageside physician called a halt to the contest between the second and third round against the wishes of an emotional Abdallah. That meant Rama, who seconds earlier had believed his playoff hopes had slipped away, instead scored enough points with the TKO stoppage to sneak into the backdoor of PFL light heavyweight postseason as the No. 7 seed.
“I wanted the fight to go on, he was a good opponent,“ Rama said afterward. “But listen, that’s done. This is it. Let’s do it, man. It’s time to work.”
In a bizarre bit of irony, the man whose spot Rama took in the playoff bracket was former Bellator champion Brandon Halsey, who defeated Rama in similar fashion via doctor’s stoppage due to a cut between the second and third rounds at PFL 2. However, PFL 2 took place in Illinois rather than New Jersey, and because of discrepancies in the rule books between the two commissions, Halsey’s victory was officially ruled a TKO stoppage at :01 of round three. That small difference ended up being the deciding factor in Halsey and Rama’s point totals for the season.
Rama is next slated to take on No. 2 light heavyweight seed Maxim Grishin when the PFL playoffs kick off in October.
In the night’s co-main event, Russian light heavyweight Bazigit Atajev (19-2) utterly demolished former UFC fighter Sean O’Connell (18-10) at 3:30 of the opening round to snatch the No. 4 seed in the 205-pound playoff bracket.
The fight was Atajev’s from the start. He knocked O’Connell down with a flurry in the first minute, then picked his shots and kept pouring on offense until badly hurting his American foe with a spinning back kick to the liver. O’Connell instantly dropped to one knee, and sensing the end was near, Atajev bulldozed forward with punches to secure the TKO finish.
Atajev is next scheduled to take on Emiliano Sordi in the opening round of the light heavyweight playoffs, while O’Connell — the No. 6 seed — will face Daniel Spohn.
Elsewhere on the main card, late replacement Alexandre Bezerra (22-5) pulled off one of the best flying knee knockouts of the year to stop Magomed Idrisov (8-3) in his PFL debut and cruise into the featherweight playoff bracket. After a tightly contested first few minutes, Bezerra exploded into the fight-ending strike along the fence and instantly shut Idrisov’s lights off, forcing a halt to the contest at 3:24 of the first round.
With the highlight-reel win, Bezerra clinched the No. 6 seed in the 145-pound playoff bracket and a rematch against former PFL featherweight champion Andre Harrison. Bezerra previously lost to Harrison via unanimous decision in 2016 under the Titan FC umbrella.
“That’s awesome!” Bezerra said after learning the news. “I can’t wait to see you, Harrison.”
Likewise, Brazilian up-and-comer Handesson Ferreira (12-1-1) also made the best of his own short-notice entry into the PFL bracket. A training partner of the Pitbull brothers, Ferreira needed just 20 seconds to wallop American welterweight Paul Bradley (23-10), knocking out the ex-UFC fighter with a sensational sequence that began with a left body kick and right hook then ended with Ferreira raining down punches onto his turtled-up foe.
With his stoppage victory, Ferreira secured the No. 5 seed in the PFL welterweight playoffs and an opening round matchup against Rick Story.
To round out the main card, heavyweight veterans Caio Alencar (12-3) and Mike Kyle (23-16-1) kicked off the night’s NBC Sports Network broadcast with a relatively dreadful affair that saw both men exhausted by the beginning the second round.
Kyle opened the contest fast and hard, downing Alencar with a big left hook in the first exchange, however Alencar survived and nearly submitted Kyle minutes later with an arm triangle choke from side control. Kyle escaped, but from there things slowed to a standstill, as both men were visibly drained. Alencar controlled the rest of the action with his takedowns, achieving mount multiple times in the second and third rounds but failing to find any significant offense. In the end, Alencar picked up a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) to win the fight but stay outside of the heavyweight playoff picture.
Complete PFL 7 results can be seen here. Updated playoff standings can be seen below.