LAS VEGAS, N.V.: The 2019 Professional Fighters League (PFL) Playoffs continued at MGM’s Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas with featherweight and lightweight action. Returning featherweight and lightweight champions Lance Palmer and Natan Schulte both return to NYC, one win away from repeating and securing another million dollar payday. Palmer will face Daniel Pineda, who upset the #2 and #6 seeds en route to the championship berth. Schulte will face Loik Radzhabov, who upset the #2 and #3 seeds. The 2019 PFL World Championship will take place on NYE at Madison Square Garden.
“PFL continues to push the sport forward with our fight twice-win twice playoff action on ESPN,” said Peter Murray, CEO of the PFL. “PFL playoffs are the toughest nights in MMA, and real-time delivery of dynamic fighter performance data through our proprietary SmartCage technology added additional context to their impressive feats of athleticism.”
“Tonight, MMA fans were once again treated to thrilling PFL playoff fights,” said Ray Sefo, President of Fighter Operations of the PFL. “Each fight delivered high-intensity MMA action. Two returning champions showed just how tough they are, while two #7 seeds battled through stiff competition to advance. In the PFL, it’s win and advance, and these four fighters did just that and are now headed to Madison Square Garden.”
The top half of the featherweight playoff bracket featured 2018 PFL champion Palmer, who entered the 2019 PFL playoffs as the #1 seed. In a dominating quarterfinal performance, Palmer defeated #9 Alexandre Almeida by majority decision to extend his winning streak to nine fights. He used his superior wrestling skills to control the fight from start to finish and remain undefeated in his PFL career.
#4 Alex Gilpin became the first fighter ever to finish #5 Andre Harrison, locking in a decisive D’Arce choke in the second round. Gilpin and Harrison exchanged strikes and takedowns throughout the first round. Harrison took the fight to the ground, but it was Gilpin who capitalized, catching Harrison off-guard and advancing to the semifinals, setting up a rematch with Palmer.
In the semifinal rematch, Palmer again defeated Gilpin by unanimous decision. In addition to scoring a handful of takedowns, Palmer unleashed his hands early in the fight, landing combos with precision. For the second straight year, Palmer will head to New York City with a chance to take home the PFL featherweight title and million-dollar prize.
The bottom half of the bracket featured an early quarterfinal upset, with #7 Pineda handing #2 Movlid Khaibulaev the first loss of his career. Pineda knocked out Khaibulaev just 29 seconds into the first round with a devastating left hook. Khaibulaev holds the fastest finish in PFL history, a 10-second highlight reel flying knee KO at PFL 2, but was unable to land his signature move versus Pineda.
#6 Jeremy Kennedy defeated #3 Luis Rafael Laurentino with a second round TKO, avenging a 17 second loss at PFL 5 at the feet of Laurentino. Kennedy’s TKO followed a strong takedown that put Laurentino on his back in a defenseless position. Without hesitation, Kennedy rained down punches until the official stepped in and called the fight.
In the semifinals, Pineda again took out a higher seed, earning a first round submission win over Kennedy by guillotine choke. Pineda advanced to the PFL playoffs without a PFL fight under his belt following a walkover win at PFL 5. He showed his in-cage prowess Thursday night, advancing to the championship and continuing his improbable run to a million dollar payday. To win the title, he’ll need to secure another upset, this time over returning champion Lance Palmer.
2018 lightweight champion and #1 seed Natan Schulte started lightweight quarterfinal action with a first round submission win over #8 Ramsey Nijem. Nijem came out firing, dropping Schulte with a right hook. Schulte quickly recovered, securing Nijem’s back and clinching a rear naked choke that put Nijem to sleep. Schulte remained unbeaten in his PFL career, improving to 7-0-1 heading into a semifinal bout versus Akhmed Aliev.
#4 Aliev defeated #5 Rashid Magomedov by unanimous decision in his quarterfinal matchup. Aliev pressed Magomedov throughout the bout and landed a vicious takedown by full body suplex in the first round.
In the semifinals, #1 Schulte eliminated #4 Aliev by second round submission. The 2018 lightweight champion took heavy combos from Aliev in the first round. Heading into the second, Schulte bounced back after taking Aliev to the ground with a sweeping hip throw. From there, Schulte showcased his superior ground game, submitting Aliev via arm triangle choke. Schulte advances to the 2019 PFL World Championship and will fight for his second straight lightweight title and another million-dollar purse.
On the other half of the lightweight bracket, #7 Radzhabov took #2 Islam Mamedov the distance in their quarterfinal bout. The fight ended in a majority draw, forcing a tiebreaker where all three judges chose Radzhabov as the fighter who had the better overall performance. With the tiebreaker decision, Radzhabov ended Mamedov’s 17 fight win streak.
#3 Chris Wade defeated #6 Nate Andrews in the final lightweight quarterfinal of the night by majority decision. In a rematch of PFL 2, Wade again defeated Andrews by taking the fight to the ground, advancing to the semifinals for the second straight season.
In the semifinals, Radzhabov defeated Wade by unanimous decision after going all three, five minute rounds. Wasting no time, Radzhabov came out on the offensive outlanding strikes on Wade in each round. In rounds two and three, Razhabov showed signs of submitting Wade, almost closing on a guillotine and rear naked choke. Radzhabov advances to the 2019 PFL World Championship and will take on #1 seed and returning champion Natan Schulte.
PFL Playoff action continues on October 31 at Mandalay Bay Events Center, where heavyweights and light heavyweights will fight twice in one night for a shot at the championship. The 2019 PFL Playoffs will air across ESPN2, ESPN+, — the industry-leading sports streaming service — and ESPN Deportes, in addition to TSN in Canada, and on a wide and diverse group of premier global distribution partner platforms reaching over 150 countries around the world.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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