It was a tough night to be a favorite in the PFL as the Season 3 opener ended with three upsets, including the lightweight headliner between former UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis and Clay Collard.
Collard nearly finished Pettis in the second round with a flurry of brutal punches and then survived a last-minute head kick and flying knee from the ex-champ to capture a unanimous decision with two scores of 29-27 and one of 29-28 in the main event of Friday’s fight card at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.
Collard had early success by keeping Pettis on his heels with straight line attacks and body shots. Pettis sniped with kicks at range and had increasing success on the back of Collard’s punches as he adjusted his timing. Feeling momentum, Pettis went airborne with an acrobatic kick and instead ended up on his back, a pattern that would repeat over the fight.
A straight right from Collard sent Pettis to the canvas in the second after it appeared the ex-champ was beginning to find his range. Pettis went into survival mode on his hands and knees as referee Gary Copeland watched closely. The fight probably could have been stopped, but Pettis survived, only to be caught with another right hand. Collard suplexed Pettis and pounded away to end the middle frame.
Pettis’ mouth was wide open as the third frame started, and yet he still managed to land his trademark kicks, one of which slapped Collard upside the head. A jumping switch knee sent Collard to the canvas, and he hung on for dear life with his back on the mat. Unable to turn up the tempo, Pettis allowed Collard to escape and whiffed on other head shot.
Collard, who’s late-career resurgence as a boxer preceded his move back to MMA, picks up three points with his upset as Pettis goes back to the drawing board after a pair of UFC wins set up his move to the PFL.
Held holds on against Schulte
Submission specialists Natan Schulte and Marcin Held did what grapplers do against each other and slugged it out for three rounds of nonstop action.
At the end of 15 minutes, Held delivered the second major upset of the night by outpointing two-time lightweight champ Schulte two rounds to one in the co-main event.
Held’s chin and legs were put to the test late in the fight as Schulte absorbed his best shots and continued to press forward, initiating a slugfest at every turn. But Held’s early work paid dividends as he managed to find his way through Schulte’s formidable guard more often than his champion foe could counter.
Momentum shifted toward the champion when Held’s mid-fight takedown failed, and he controlled the fight against the cage. In the third, a pair of left hooks from Schulte visibly rattled Held. The Polish fighter didn’t crack, however, and his stiff jabs and overhand right won the day.
Khaibulaev puts on GNP clinic
A superior striker felled Movlid Khaibulaev in his previous PFL appearance. This time, he took no chances and exploited the wrestling deficiencies of Lazar Stojadinovic for a unanimous decision.
Khaibulaev pitched a shutout with unanimous 30-27 scores and earned three points toward his Season 3 score by repeatedly taking down Stojadinovic and pounding away.
There were points in the first and third frames where Khaibulaev’s piston-like left threatened to trigger a TKO stoppage as he trapped one of his opponent’s hands and had his way. Stojadinovic survived, but the only charity he received were three nine-point tallies.
After a TKO against Daniel Pineda in the Season 2 quarterfinals that was overturned by a positive drug test, Khaibulaev remains undefeated as a professional.
Jenkins upsets two-time champ Palmer
The wrestling advantage that Bubba Jenkins touted in advance of his showdown with four-time mat opponent Lance Palmer played out as he promised.
Over three rounds, Jenkins controlled and outgrappled Palmer to pick up his first PFL win and three points in the Season 3 opener via unanimous scores of 30-27.
Jenkins also made a huge statement opposite a dominant the two-time tournament champion, who hadn’t lost a fight in over three years and 11 fights. Palmer’s counter-heavy strategy wound up backfiring as he allowed Jenkins to dictate the action and set up takedowns that led to extended periods of ground control.
Palmer, who went 1-3 against Jenkins in college, came close to pulling off a front choke in the final moments of the fight, and his low calf kick repeatedly landed. It just wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit.
Full PFL 1 results:
Clay Collard def. Anthony Pettis via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-28)
Marcin Held def. Natan Schulte via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Movlid Khaibulaev def. Lazar Stojadinovic via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Bubba Jenkins def. Lance Palmer via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Brendan Loughnane def. Sheymon Moraes via KO (punch) – Round 1, 2:55
Raush Manfio def. Joilton Lutterbach via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Akhmed Aliev def. Mikhail Odintsov via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Chris Wade def. Anthony Dizy via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Tyler Diamond def. Jo Sung Bin via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alexander Martinez def. Loik Radzhabov via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)