The final MMA event of 2019 saw six fighters come away victorious in their respective PFL tournament championship finals at the Hulu Theater in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Kayla Harrison, Ray Cooper III, and Ali Isaev were among those who ended the year with $1 million prizes, while Natan Schulte and Lance Palmer became the first repeat winners in PFL’s short history. Here’s how the promotion’s second season played out.
Kayla Harrison def. Larissa Pacheco via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) - Women’s Lightweight title
Unsurprisingly, the main event had the most predictable result, as Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison outclassed Larissa Pacheco again to become the inaugural women’s lightweight champion. Takedowns, positional dominance, and lots of ground strikes made for a non-competitive affair. Harrison had beaten Pacheco in the regular season by decision, but while she wasn’t able to get the finish in the rematch, she does win the women’s lightweight title and remain unbeaten in her career.
Ray Cooper III def. David Michaud via TKO (strikes) at 2:56 of round 2 - Welterweight title
Last year, Cooper III stormed his way into the PFL final, only to be choked out by Magomed Magomedkerimov in an upset. He made sure that 2019 wouldn’t end in another second-place finish, as a well-placed body shot dropped Michaud midway through round two, and David would not recover.
Cooper had Michaud hurt with a liver kick in the opening round, but Michaud rallied back to hurt Cooper in the second prior to the finish, so consider this a mini-rally of sorts from the Hawaiian.
Ali Isaev def. Jared Rosholt via TKO (punches) at 4:09 of round 4 - Heavyweight title
Isaev was in control of this one, which was not exactly the most thrilling of contests but that’s apt for a lot of Rosholt fights. What you don’t often see if Rosholt get clearly outwrestled, which was what happened on New Year’s Eve. Isaev capped off a 5-0 year in PFL with some brutal ground-and-pound in the penultimate round to get the TKO victory. He was well up on the scorecards, but he gets his $1 million check in style.
Natan Schulte def. Loik Radzhabov via unanimous decision (49-44, 49-46, 48-47) - Lightweight title
Easily the best fight on the whole card, and a hard-earned second championship in a row for the Brazilian. While Schulte took the crucial later rounds of this grueling affair, Radzhabov had Schulte rocked in the first and second rounds. The second frame in particular was a brutal onslaught of offense from Radzhabov that Schulte somehow survived, although not without a bloody nose in the process.
Unfortunately for Radzhabov, his shot at glory peaked in round two, and his cardio was shot to pieces. Schulte took over in the second-half of the fight and dominated the third and fourth rounds, piecing up Loik with brutal leg kicks and working him over on the ground. Apart from a late takedown into side control (which Schulte swept his way out of), Radzhabov saw his early lead turn into a Schulte decision victory, giving Natan his second straight PFL title.
Lance Palmer def. Alex Gilpin via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 50-44) - Featherweight title
Needless to say, Palmer has been nothing short of dominant in PFL. He was originally scheduled to face Daniel Pineda in the final, but a failed drug test led to Gilpin getting the call-up and thus another crack at Palmer, who’d beaten him in the regular season and the playoffs. Gilpin wasn’t even close to getting the better of Lance in the trilogy, as Palmer outwrestled and outgrappled Gilpin comprehensively for a shutout on the scorecards. “The Party” was on for Lance after the scorecards were read, and he’s now won 11 in a row, picking up two $1 million tournament checks along the way.
Emiliano Sordi def. Jordan Johnson via TKO (punches) at 2:01 of round 1 - Light Heavyweight title
Argentina’s Sordi was brilliant throughout the PFL season, and he saved his best for last. Facing off against UFC veteran Jordan Johnson, Sordi walloped Johnson with a big right hand that had him in big trouble. Several punches on the ground sealed the deal and got the card’s only opening round finish. On the ESPN broadcast, they had a camera on Jordan’s father right before he was dropped and eventually stopped, which was unfortunate timing.
Full results below:
Main Card (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
Kayla Harrison def. Larissa Pacheco via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45)
Ray Cooper III def. David Michaud via TKO (strikes) at 2:56 of round 2
Ali Isaev def. Jared Rosholt via TKO (punches) at 4:09 of round 4
Natan Schulte def. Loik Radzhabov via unanimous decision (49-44, 49-46, 48-47)
Lance Palmer def. Alex Gilpin via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 50-44)
Emiliano Sordi def. Jordan Johnson via TKO (punches) at 2:01 of round 1
Preliminary card/Pre-show (ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
Brendan Loughnane def. David Alex Valente via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
And now we’re onto 2020!