If fans are looking for a preview of coming attractions, Pacheco points them to her dominant decision over Sarah Kaufman in the PFL Season 2 semifinals.
”My hands are heavy – I know that,” Pacheco told MMA Fighting. “You all saw that in my last fight. Sarah is very tough, I respected her a lot, but Kayla can’t take what she took. She’s not used to it.
”People don’t get punched in the face in her sport, and she didn’t have to deal with that because she took her opponents to the ground and finished them too quickly.”
Harrison is a two-time Olympic gold medalist judoka who’s finished all but one of her MMA rivals. Her only opponent to go the distance? Larissa Pacheco in Season 1.
It was a fight for which Pachecho wasn’t totally ready. Ten months after a run on the 28th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where she met season winner Macy Chiasson in a featherweight bout, she signed on having suffered through brutal weight cuts on the reality show.
Weight has been a persistent struggle for the Brazilian vet. She was unbeaten in the sport when she joined the UFC roster on short notice as a bantamweight. But the rush to hit 135 pounds devastated her body, and she lost her debut via submission to future champ Jessica Andrade. Six months later, another setback to Germaine de Randamie signaled the end of her run in the company.
”When I fought Kayla the first time, I knew it wouldn’t be an easy win,” Pacheco said. “I fought her the first time on short notice, and I didn’t do a training camp for her. I knew I had the potential to win this tournament (in the second season).”
For Pacheco, getting to the top of the lightweight division is proof it’s not worth cutting a ton of weight to compete in a lower weight class. She now walks around 177 pounds, far more than the 135-pound limit she mad to make twice in the UFC.
”The weight cut made a huge difference,” she said. “I suffered a lot to make the bantamweight limit. I can still fight at 145, but would never do it at 135 again. My body can’t take it; it never fully recovers in time to perform well. It’s not worth it.”
That realization led to a lot of painful lessons in the cage. But they’ve also led her to a pivotal moment where the reward is $1 million.
“She underestimated me when we first fought,” Pacheco said of Harrison. “PFL underestimated me. No one believed I could get to the final. No one. She said I was just another fight and she couldn’t do anything to me — and I wasn’t even training to fight her. I was away for a year after ‘TUF’ and they changed plans days before the fight. It’s a whole new Larissa now.
”I won’t underestimate her grappling. Never. She really dominates the grappling area, but I see myself trading with her on the feet and possibly knocking her out, because her chin isn’t as hard as Sarah’s.”