Just about everybody watching the fight was shocked by the scorecards after two judges gave Tibau the fight 29-28, with the third official giving MacDonald the nod by the same 29-28 score. A dejected MacDonald left the cage upset by the decision while Tibau was celebrating arguably one of the biggest wins of his career.
It was certainly a confusing call by the judges as MacDonald was largely in control from the very start of the fight, pushing Tibau around the cage with his slick striking while also mixing in several grappling exchanges that showed off his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. Time and time again, MacDonald was able to push forward then slip behind Tibau’s back as he looked for the submission finish.
To his credit, Tibau was able to endure the high-powered onslaught coming from MacDonald, but he always seemed to be a step behind the former Bellator champion. MacDonald’s speed and footwork were really giving Tibau problems, especially when he marched forward trying to make something happen.
While MacDonald was landing the better shots all night long, Tibau refused to back down as he swung with power behind every punch in order to pull off the upset. Tibau was also able to shrug off a number of MacDonald’s takedown attempts, but he also couldn’t do much in return whenever the Canadian closed the distance.
Even as the third round began, MacDonald stayed technical with his strikes, throwing out a series of straight punches and then launching kicks whenever Tibau left his body open. The jab was MacDonald’s best punch, as he used his considerable eight-inch reach advantage to keep Tibau at a distance.
Tibau was definitely swinging with force and he was happy to engage in exchanges with MacDonald in the pocket, but it never appeared that he was doing that much damage on the feet. Regardless, judges Cardo Urso and Dave Tirelli obviously believed he did enough to earn the victory after both scored the fight for him.
Despite the stunning result, MacDonald will still cruise into the PFL playoffs. Tibau will not move forward in the season but he will go home with his win bonus and a victory on his record over one of the top welterweights in the sport.
Returning welterweight champion Ray Cooper III scored a much-needed win in his fight against Nikolay Aleksakhin after he failed to make weight on Wednesday, which meant he had to come away victorious in order to move onto the playoffs.
While he didn’t score one of his signature knockouts, Cooper was relentless with his offense throughout the fight including numerous takedown attempts and blistering punches across all three rounds.
It was pure aggression from Cooper from the second he was released from his corner, as he marched forward and continued to throw combinations in succession. In return, Aleksakhn was able to absorb a lot of damage and then fire back with his own powerful shots, including several jumping knee strikes as he looked for the highlight-reel knockout.
As time passed, Cooper was really determined to pour on the punishment as he applied his wrestling and then blasted away at the Russian with punches. While Aleksakhin was never out of the fight, he was struggling to break free from Cooper’s grasp to win the rounds in order to take the decision on the scorecards.
Cooper now moves onto face MacDonald in the playoffs as he seeks to win his second PFL championship after taking home the $1 million prize in 2019.
Former PFL champ Emiliano Sordi ended up in a grueling three-round war with Dan Spohn in a fight many believed was an almost automatic pass to the playoffs, but instead the light heavyweights battled to a draw.
The difference in the scorecards came as a result of what happened in the first round. Sordi battered Spohn with a series of strikes on the ground, but the barrage also came with numerous shots to the back of the head. Following a warning, referee Vitor Ribeiro paused the action and deducted a point from Sordi’s scorecard for the repeated fouls.
As the fight continued, Sordi and Spohn engaged in a slugfest on the feet and on the ground with both fighters having their own moments during the 15-minute session. While Sordi was landing the cleaner strikes, Spohn refused to go away and that allowed him to make it to the final bell.
Thanks to that point deduction, Sordi was unable to separate himself enough from Spohn in the final two rounds and the scorecards reflected that with all three judges scoring the fight 28-28.
Regardless of the draw, Sordi still amassed enough points to move onto the light heavyweight playoffs where he will meet Antonio Carlos Jr. in his next appearance in the PFL cage.
In the opening bout on the main card, Chris Camozzi survived an early ground attack from Cezar Ferreira then delivered a punishing performance to win a unanimous decision, with the judges scoring the fight 29-28, 29-28, and 29-27 in his favor.
Following an impressive start to his PFL career earlier this year, Ferreira tried to do the same in his second fight, and after dragging Camozzi to the canvas, it appeared he might catch an early submission. Unfortunately for him, Camozzi survived and came back with a vengeance in the second round where he dropped the Brazilian with a nasty left hook and nearly scored a finish.
From that point, Camozzi remained in control, stuffing takedowns and landing combinations on the feet to get the win. The only downside was Camozzi needed a finish in order to punch his ticket into the playoffs, which means his PFL season is still over.
Meanwhile, Ferreira will still move forward after a huge first round finish in his debut performance in the PFL.
PFL 5 Results:
- Gleison Tibau def. Rory MacDonald via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Ray Cooper III def. Nikolay Aleksakhin via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Emiliano Sordi vs. Dan Spohn ends in a draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28)
- Chris Camozzi def. Cezar Ferreira via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)
- Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Vinny Magalhaes ends in No Contest (groin strike) at 2:45 of R1
- Cory Hendricks def. Marthin Hamlet via submission (rear-naked choke) at 4:09 of R3
- Joao Zeferino def. Jason Ponet via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 2:16 of R2
- Magomed Magomedkerimov def. Curtis Millender via submission (ezekiel choke) at 1:57 of R1
- Tom Lawlor def. Jordan Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Sadibou Sy def. Alexey Kunchenko via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)