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Larissa Pacheco shocks the world with stunning upset to beat Kayla Harrison in PFL Championship main event

Larissa Pacheco just shocked the world.

In a stunning performance, Pacheco handed two-time champion Kayla Harrison the first loss of her career in the main event at the PFL Championship card on Friday in New York City.

Pacheco displayed a punishing array of strikes while forcing Harrison to work for every position she got over five rounds while also nearly pulling off a submission of her own on the ground. Even when Harrison managed to get in deep on takedowns, Pacheco was blasting her with punches and doing more damage over five rounds to get the nod when the fight was over.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 with Pacheco getting the statement win over Harrison.

“It’s a culmination of a career,” Pacheco said following her upset win. “A culmination of a dream. It means the world to me.”

Nearly a 10-to-1 underdog when the night began, Pacheco starting chipping away at Harrison’s aura of invincibility as soon as she had room to work while showing no fear even in the grappling exchanges with the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo.

As the fight got started, Harrison wasted no time closing the distance and landing a slick inside trip that brought Pacheco crashing down to the canvas in the opening round. Harrison was methodical with her ground attack as she set up her punches while pushing Pacheco towards the cage to trap her there to deliver even more punishment.

Pacheco found an opening to counter Harrison’s grappling with a guillotine choke attempt off a double leg takedown attempt, which put the lightweights into a scramble on the mat. Harrison eventually got back to her feet but Pacheco showed that she wasn’t going to just concede any position on the feet or on the ground.

Late in the second round, Pacheco finally connected with a stinging combination that put Harrison on her back foot for the first time. Pacheco surged forward with another barrage of punches as Harrison looked to avoid further damage.

When the fight eventually found its way back to the ground again, Pacheco nearly locked up a triangle choke but Harrison refused to give up as she fought her way free. That led to Harrison moving into the mount as she looked to overwhelm Pacheco with her top pressure while raining down punches from above.

With no desire to play around on the feet with Pacheco any longer, Harrison immediately started closing the distance to look for the takedown once the fight faded into the championship rounds. While Harrison did her best to maintain control, Pacheco was constantly threatening from the bottom and hitting reversals to get the fight standing again.

Any time Pacheco had an opening to throw strikes she made Harrison pay as she kept the fight close moving into the final five minute session.

As Harrison attempted to secure the victory with another takedown, Pacheco began punishing her with a series of vicious hammer fists and punches. Harrison eventually had to let go of the leg to avoid the strikes but was able to take advantage of a Pacheco mistake to land on top again.

Even from there, Pacheco was still throwing stinging punches from the bottom, which prevented Harrison from really mounting any offense of her own.

When the decision was read, Pacheco celebrated the biggest win of her career while a dejected Harrison tasted defeat for the first time in her mixed martial arts career.

“This belt just motivates me to work even harder,” Pacheco said. “I’ve got a lot more to do in this sport.

“Just like Kayla said before, I’ve always made her a better competitor while she’s always made me a better competitor and she drove me to this moment right now.”

The result will surely shake up the PFL heading into 2023 as Pacheco claimed the lightweight title while Harrison has already said she doesn’t plan on competing in the tournament format again. Given the stakes in this fight, it’s likely the promotion will almost assuredly attempt to match these two up again in the not too distance future.

Full results for the PFL Championship 2022 card below:

MAIN CARD:

Larissa Pacheco def. Kayla Harrison via unanimous decision (48-47,48-47, 48-47)

Brendan Loughnane def. Bubba Jenkins via TKO (strikes) – Round 4, 2:38

Ante Delija def. Matheus Scheffel via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:50

Aspen Ladd def. Julia Budd via split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)

Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Stevie Ray via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 4:40

Sadibou Sy def. Dilano Taylor via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)

Rob Wilkinson def. Omari Akhmedov via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 2, 5:00

Preliminary Card (ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m. ET)

Sheymon Moraes def. Marlon Moraes via TKO - Round 3, 0:58

Natan Schulte def. Jeremy Stephens via submission (arm-triangle) - Round 2, 1:32

Magomed Magomedkerimov def. Gleison Tibau via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Dakota Ditcheva def. Katherine Corogenes via KO - Round 1, 4:20

Biaggio Ali Walsh def. Tom Graesser via KO (punch) - Round 1, 0:45

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