Not even Lance Palmer could have predicted how PFL season 2 would play out.
After wrapping up the $1 million grand prize as a featherweight in season 1, the former Ohio State All-American wrestler entered the second season as an overwhelming favorite to repeat as champion.
Palmer did his part by rolling through four straight fights including two unanimous decision wins over Alex Gilpin. Palmer faced Gilpin in the first fight of the season as he handed the 27-year-old contender the second loss of his professional career.
Because PFL is set up similar to a traditional sports format where athletes compete for points in the opening rounds before then being seeded into the playoffs, Gilpin was able to fight his way into a rematch with Palmer five months later.
Once again, Palmer thwarted Gilpin’s attempt to pull off the upset and he won the second fight by unanimous decision.
At that point, Palmer started preparing for a showdown in the PFL season 2 finals against Daniel Pineda and that’s when he got word that the former UFC fighter had been flagged for a failed drug test by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Due to the points system in the PFL, Gilpin was the next alternate on deck and now he will face Palmer for a third time in the finals of the featherweight playoffs on Dec. 31.
“It’s been so weird this year anyway,” Palmer said about facing Gilpin in a trilogy in 2019. “He’s only had one other loss besides me in his entire career. It goes back to the fight with [Steven] Siler. Siler is a guy who’s always been dangerous and we’re fighting a similar guy with a slightly different style.
“The trilogy fights, I guess that’s just my thing with World Series of Fighting and PFL.”
On paper, Palmer will be an overwhelming favorite not only because he’s the returning champion but also largely because he’s already beaten Gilpin handily on two previous occasions.
Stacking the deck against Gilpin even more is that he’ll face Palmer for the third time in a span of just seven months, which means it’s going to be that much harder to make any major adjustments between fights.
Palmer knows Gilpin will likely go for broke when they clash on New Year’s Eve but he also understands that he can’t exactly reinvent the wheel in such a short amount of time since they last met in October.
“You can’t change that much in a short amount of time but I’ve been working with coach [Mark] Henry and coach [Ricardo] Almeida this entire year. I’ve been improving with every, single fight and I feel I’ve been making improvements more than he has over the course of this season,” Palmer said.
“I feel like they’re going to do things a little differently but you can’t change that much in a short amount of time.”
With another $1 million on the line, Palmer certainly doesn’t need any extra motivation to win no matter who’s standing across the cage from him but he still sees room for improvement against Gilpin despite beating him twice already.
“That’s been my entire mindset the last two years,” Palmer explained. “I need to keep improving in every area because whether they’re close fights or I’m winning handily, I want to keep improving and keep dominating.
“The only way I can do that is if I keep working on myself and the rest will come.”