Kayla Harrison may be one of the top pound-for-pound women’s fighters in the sport but she’s also her own worst critic.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist picked up a dominant win in her season debut in the PFL 3 main event on Friday but Harrison was critical about her performance after going to decision for only the third time in her career. All three judges scored the fight 30-27 for Harrison but she was not happy with the way the fight played out.
“I think it was utter dog crap,” Harrison said following the win. “Sorry to the fans, I wanted to put on a better show for you. These girls are tougher than you think. I make it look easy sometimes but other nights, not so much.”
The fight started as so many past performances from Harrison as she used her strikes to set up the takedown, which brought Mokhnatkina down into her world on the ground. Harrison was quick to advance her position as she initially looked to set up a potential rear-naked choke but Mokhnatkina managed to defend well enough to escape and then get back to the feet.
Harrison continued to show her superior size and strength as she muscled Mokhnatkina around the cage. While she wasn’t able to get the takedown, Mokhnatkina rolling for a leg lock actually allowed Harrison to end up on top where she looked to rain down some ground and pound.
As the fight moved into the third round, Harrison was struggling to hold onto her opponent after telling her coaches that Mokhnatkina was too slippery with sweat to maintain her grip during the grappling exchanges. Still, Harrison was in complete control as she continuously kept Mokhnatkina in troublesome positions, advancing to take the back and then looking to set up her submissions.
The final five minutes was spent mostly in the clinch with Harrison pressing Mokhnatkina into the cage and landing short punches from the inside. Mokhnatkina did just enough to always stay out of trouble, which made it that much tougher for Harrison to find an opening to look for the finish.
The win moves Harrison to 13-0 in her career and she also spent 15 more minutes in the cage, which can’t be discounted as she continues to evolve with every fight.
“This is a learning experience,” Harrison said. “I’m still young in my career. The more time I get the in cage, the better I’m going to get. Ready for the next one.”
Carlos Leal Pulls Off the Upset
PFL Challengers Series veteran Carlos Leal picked up the biggest win of his career with a dominant performance over ex-champion Ray Cooper III, who actually came into the fight overweight after hitting the scale at 176.4 pounds — 5.4 pounds over the welterweight limit.
From the first exchange, Leal had full confidence in his strikes as he tagged Cooper with some really stiff shots on the feet including a straight punch that had the Hawaiian rattled momentarily. Despite Cooper’s best efforts to turn to his wrestling, Leal was ready to defend as he shrugged off takedowns repeatedly over all three rounds.
In the third round, Leal almost scored another finish after hurting Cooper to the body and then attempting to punch his way to a finish on the ground. Cooper found a way to survive and he nearly pulled off a dramatic comeback after swinging heavy leather at Leal during the final minute in the fight.
Leal withstood the barrage and continued trading shots with Cooper until the final bell.
The win puts Leal that much closer to a potential birth in the PFL playoffs while Cooper will need a strong showing in his next fight after already being penalized for missing weight for Friday’s event.
Anthony Pettis Gets First PFL Win
Ex-UFC champion Anthony Pettis finally earned his first win in the PFL after he submitted Myles Price with a slick mounted triangle choke in the opening round.
Following back-to-back losses in the PFL in 2021, Pettis came out with something to prove on Friday night and before he got the finish on the ground, he was looking for the knockout on the feet. As soon as Price dove for his legs to start the fight, Pettis clipped him with a hard uppercut that brought the action down to the floor.
While Price was able to survive and eventually reverse positions, Pettis made him pay rather quickly by locking on a triangle choke. Price tried to break free but he only found himself with Pettis mounted on top of him with the submission cinched up even fighter, which forced him to tap out with the stoppage coming at 4:17 in the first round.
“Flawless victory for me,” Pettis said afterwards. “This year is my year.”
Rory MacDonald Scores Flawless Victory
Following a disappointing end to his first season with the PFL, Rory MacDonald got back on track in a big way in his return to action on Friday night with a lightning quick finish over Brett Cooper.
After spending part of his training camp with noted grappling coach John Danaher, the former Bellator champion put those skills to work after securing an early takedown before shredding Cooper’s defense to move into the mount position. MacDonald rained down punches from the top until Cooper rolled to avoid further damage, which made him prone to the submission.
As soon as MacDonald locked up the choke, he tightened his grip and Cooper was forced to tap out with the end coming at 2:23 in the opening round.
Larissa Pacheco Picks Up Stunning Knockout Win
In the opening fight on the main card, Larissa Pacheco got her season started with a one-sided beatdown on her opponent Zamzagul Fayzallanova. Pacheco came out firing right away and didn’t stop until she clubbed Fayzallanova with a brutal right hand that put her down and out on the canvas.
With the first-round finish, Pacheco earned a quick six points to kick off her third season with the PFL.
Full PFL 3 Results:
Kayla Harrison def. Marina Mokhnatkina via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Carlos Leal def. Ray Cooper III via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-27)
Anthony Pettis def. Myles Price via submission (mounted triangle choke) at 4:17, R1
Rory MacDonald def. Brett Cooper via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:23, R1
Larissa Pacheco def. Zamzagul Fayzallanova via TKO (strikes) at 1:25, R1