Kayla Harrison went the distance for the first time in her career, but the results were the same.
The two-time Olympic gold medal winning judoka improved to 4-0 as a pro fighter and earned herself three points in the lightweight standings with a unanimous decision win over short-notice replacement Larissa Pacheco (11-3) in the main event of PFL 12, the league’s season premiere, on Thursday at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Harrison was in top control for almost the entire fight, setting the tone early with a takedown off of the cage and relentlessly working to improve position and keep Pacheco pinned to the mat. To Pacheco’s credit, she landed some good punches on the feet and even threatened with a rear-naked choke in round two. The less experienced Harrison remained calm, however, and repeatedly got the better of Pacheco in the grappling exchanges to give herself openings for ground-and-pound and guard passes.
The first judges’ call of Harrison’s career was a favorable one as she won via scores of 30-25, 30-27, 30-27.
Golden once again! @JudoKayla was tested by @pachecolarissa but stays perfect with a decision and earns 3 points. #PFLmma pic.twitter.com/JRAkwuqQQB— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 10, 2019
“She’s a game opponent, she’s got a lot of experience and my hat’s off to her because she’s a tough lady,” Harrison said of Pacheco post-fight.
Asked what it was like to face major adversity for the first time in MMA, Harrison credited her team with preparing her for the worst.
“I’m lucky that I train at the best gym in the world, American Top Team,” Harrison said. “My coaches prepared me for everything including being in bad positions and the key is just to stay calm. and fight smart and thankfully we drilled that a lot, so that’s what I did.”
Magomed Magomedkerimov (24-5) won last year’s welterweight tournament and he didn’t disappoint in his first fight of 2019, putting John Howard (27-15-1) away with a first-round guillotine choke submission in the evening’s co-main event. The fight was all Magomedkerimov as he caught a kick early and took Howard down right away.
There was no escape from Magomedkerimov’s smothering top control and the reigning champion peppered Howard with ground-and-pound before turning up the heat in the final seconds and snatching Howard’s neck. Howard had to tap out with six seconds remaining in round one, giving Magomedkerimov six points (three for the win, three for the first-round finish).
Picking up right where he left off! The 2018 Welterweight Champion Magomed Magomedkerimov picks up his first win of 2019, earning 6 points with a Guillotine Choke in Round 1. pic.twitter.com/5nVEcbaTkF— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 10, 2019
One of last season’s breakout stars, Ray Cooper III (18-6) added to his collection of finishes with a second-round submission of second cousin Zane Kamaka (13-4). It looked like Cooper would go for one of his trademark striking blitzes at the opening bell, but he instead shot in to take Kamaka down and work for ground-and-pound. Kamaka survived, avoiding the worst of it, only to be taken down quickly in round two.
Bradda Boy is BACK! @raycooperiii squashes the family feud. Submission by rear-naked choke in Round 2 earning 5 points. #PFLmma pic.twitter.com/IV9OfRFLma— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 10, 2019
Kamaka could only continue to defend against Cooper’s ground strikes, eventually giving up his back and succumbing to the fight-ending choke. Finishing in the second round gave Cooper two points in addition to three he was already guaranteed due to Kamaka coming in heavy for their welterweight bout.
The experience of Sarah Kaufman (21-4, 1 NC) was too much for Morgan Frier (4-2) in their lightweight bout. Coming up from her usual weight of 135 pounds, Kaufman gave up plenty of size to Frier, but the former Strikeforce champion and UFC veteran waded through some wild punches by Frier to secure a bodylock. Kaufman worked for the takedown from there and after putting Frier on her back, she methodically transitioned into position for an arm-triangle that earned the tap 2:22 into round one.
The vet’s ground game cannot be contained! @mmasarah earns her first #PFLmma win, scoring 6 points with a 1st Round Submission. #PFLmma pic.twitter.com/jGRCzgMqr7— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 10, 2019
That’s six points (three for the win, three for the first-round finish) for Kaufman in her PFL debut.
Sadibou Sy (8-4-1) got the evening started off in spectacular fashion with a 17-second TKO of David Michaud (15-5). One sharp kick to the liver was all it took to leave Michaud completely defenseless. As Michaud fell back to the mat, Sy took his time landing follow-up punches and it became clear that Michaud was not going to recover.
What an encore for Swedish Denzel! A dynamic kick register 6 points and a 1st Round KO for Sadibou Sy, establishing his place atop the #PFLmma welterweight standings. pic.twitter.com/J0It2lIzib— #PFLmma (@ProFightLeague) May 10, 2019
The quick win earned Sy six points (three for the win, three for the first-round finish) and placed him near the top of the welterweight standings after competing as a middleweight last season.
Complete PFL 12 results can be found here.
Updated standings for the lightweight and welterweight season can be seen below (ties broken by fastest finish, otherwise listed in alphabetical order).
- Sarah Kaufman — 6 points
- Bobbi Jo Dalziel — 3 points
- Kayla Harrison — 3 points
- Roberta Samad — 3 points
- Moriel Charneksi — 0 points
- Genah Fabian — 0 points
- Morgan Frier — 0 points
- Larissa Pacheco — 0 points
- Sadibou Sy — 6 points
- Glaico Franca — 6 points
- Magomed Magomedkerimov — 6 points
- Ray Cooper III — 5 points
- Chris Curtis — 4 points
- Handesson Ferreira — 3 points
- Andre Fialho — 0 points
- John Howard — 0 points
- Zane Kamaka — 0 points
- Gamzat Khiramagomedov — 0 points
- David Michaud — 0 points
- Bojan Velickovic — 0 points