Fighting for the last time in the 2021 PFL regular season, welterweights and light heavyweights will compete on Thursday night. The 10-fight card will take place at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, and is set to be headlined by former Bellator champ Rory MacDonald and Gleison Tibau.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates.
Preliminary Card (5:30PM EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN GO)
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (ESPN 2 / TSN 2)
Bout 10: Rory MacDonald (22-6-1) vs. Gleison Tibau (34-15) (Welterweight)
Tibau Given Shocking Split Decision Victory Over MacDonald
In what was a befuddling result for many, Gleison Tibau scored a split decision win against former Bellator champ Rory MacDonald in the main event (29-28 Tibau, 29-28 MacDonald & 29-28 Tibau).
The result came after a slow-paced fight that was primarily lead by MacDonald through three rounds.
The fight mostly took place on the feet, although MacDonald took the back of Tibau early in the bout briefly. MacDonald threw and landed at a higher rate than Tibau through all three rounds, going high with punches and low with leg kicks.
Tibau had good moments in the bout, landing shots at times that would connect clean and make MacDonald wary. Tibau closed out the second round strong, connecting with a series of punches that backed MacDonald up.
MacDonald and the PFL broadcast team were both shocked by the outcome after it was read.
Users on Verdict, a mobile app that allows viewers to score MMA fights, saw an overwhelming majority of users score the fight for MacDonald.
“There’s never been a point differential this big on Verdict where the opposite fighter has won,” said the app on Twitter.
The fight had to be paused twice due to MacDonald accidentally poking Tibau in the eye. Both circumstances saw MacDonald’s fingers connect with Tibau while he was holding his arm out to block strikes.
While MacDonald took a loss in the bout, he will still be appearing in the PFL playoffs later this year. The welterweight veteran secured the spot in April, earning six points with a first-round submission win over Curtis Millender.
Tibau’s victory put him back into the win column after losing his PFL debut to Joao Zeferino earlier this year. Due to finishing the season with only three points, Tibau will not appear in the playoffs.
Bout 9: Ray Cooper III (21-7-1) vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin (26-5) (Welterweight)
Cooper III Secures First Career Decision Win, Advances To Playoffs
Ray Cooper III clinched a spot in the playoffs in the co-main event, fighting to a unanimous decision win over Nikolay Aleksakhin (30-27, 29-28 & 29-28).
Cooper III didn’t earn any points from the fight due to missing weight on Wednesday. However, Cooper III booted Aleksakhin out of the playoffs by giving him a loss, and in the process secured his own spot in the standings.
The fight started at a hectic pace, as Cooper III and Aleksakhin traded hard blows. Cooper III started to pull away with the fight as it carried on, scoring with a higher tempo and even landing takedowns.
The appearance was Cooper III’s first time winning a fight via decision. He had previously won 28 fights via stoppage, with his only two decision appearances being losses.
Cooper III, the 2019 PFL Champion, scored six points when he secured a submission win earlier this year over Jason Ponet.
Aleksakhin was looking to return after his fight against Sadibou Sy earlier this year resulted in a no contest.
Bout 8: Emiliano Sordi (23-8) vs. Dan Spohn (18-8) (Light Heavyweight)
Sordi Fights To Draw Against Spohn, Steals Final Playoff Spot
2019 PFL Champion Emiliano Sordi fought to a draw against Dan Spohn on Thursday, awarding him enough points to snag the final spot in the light heavyweight playoffs (28-28, 28-28 & 28-28).
The outcome of the fight on Thursday gave both fighters one point in the PFL season, making it four in total for Sordi. This made him take the fourth and final spot in the playoffs for the division.
Cory Hendricks, a fighter who previously had fourth place with four points lost the spot since he only fought once this season and Sordi fought twice.
Sordi’s wild, back-and-forth brawl against Spohn went to a draw in part due to a point deduction that occurred in the opening round.
Spohn scored a takedown and mounted the back of Sordi in the opening minute of the fight. Sordi complained on the way down about the collision of heads between them. Spohn then looked for a rear naked choke, although Sordi was eventually able to escape the position.
Sordi scored a flurry of punches while on the back of Spohn, teeing off for numerous minutes. His momentum was stopped in the final minute, as the referee stood him up and deducted a point from him due to numerous shots hitting the back of Spohn’s head.
Sordi had Spohn in trouble early in the second round with strikes. Spohn was able to slow the momentum of the champ, taking him down and keeping him on his back for most of the round.
A majority of the final round was on the feet, where the fatigued light heavyweights traded wailing shots.
Sordi earned a decision in his first fight of the season, defeating Chris Camozzi. His fight on Thursday was his first that didn’t end in a win since 2018.
While the fight wasn’t a win, the bout snapped a three-fight losing streak for Spohn.
Bout 7: Cezar Ferreria (14-8) vs. Chris Camozzi (25-15) (Light Heavyweight)
Camozzi Earns Decision Win, Loses Playoff Contention
Chris Camozzi finished his 2021 season on a high note, defeating Cezar Ferreira via unanimous decision to open the main card (29-28, 29-28 & 29-27).
Camozzi’s win came from his ability to out-land Ferreira during stand-up exchanges.
Camozzi dropped Ferreira early in the second round with punches. He dominated the round after, keeping a dominant position over Ferreira on the ground for the majority of the frame.
Camozzi had a scrappy battle on the feet in the final round, throwing a high volume of strikes.
Ferreira’s best round was the first frame, where he was able to notch a takedown on Camozzi.
While Camozzi earned three points in the PFL standings, it did not do enough to put him through to the playoffs. However, the result of the fight clinched a spot in the playoffs for Marthin Hamlet, who competed earlier on the show.
Camozzi lost his previous appearance this year, dropping a decision to Emiliano Sordi in April.
Ferreira is expected to appear in the playoffs due to a 37-second win he earned earlier in the season over Nick Roehrick.
Bout 6: Antonio Carlos Junior (11-5) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (19-12) (Light Heavyweight)
Groin Strike Ends Bout Between Magalhaes and Carlos Junior Within A Round
An unintentional knee to the groin of Vinny Magalhaes from Antonio Carlos Junior forced an end to their bout after nearly three minutes of the opening round.
The bout was ruled a no contest due to the strike. The knee to the groin of Magalhaes came from a clinch position and kept him grounded for numerous minutes afterward.
The fight concluded Magalhaes’ year in the PFL, as he finished the season with no points. He entered Thursday in the negatives but was evened to zero after being given one point due to the no contest.
Carlos Junior had already clinched a playoff spot before his fight on Thursday and now has a total of seven points in the season.
Bout 5: Marthin Hamlet (7-1) vs. Cory Hendricks (7-3) (Light Heavyweight)
Hendricks Scores Comeback Submission In PFL Debut
Cory Hendricks made a comeback in his prelim bout, submitting Marthin Hamlet with a rear naked choke in the third round of their bout. The win came after he was controlled with wrestling and hurt Hamlet with strikes in the two previous rounds.
Hendricks’ strong final round saw him take the back of Hamlet after dumping him to the ground. After connecting with some punches, Hendricks secured the choke which called an end to the fight.
Hamlet was able to control Hendricks for a large portion of the first two rounds in clinch positions. He also seemingly hurt Hendricks early in the first round with strikes.
Hendricks earned four points in the fight, moving him into the PFL playoffs for the time being at least. The fight on Thursday was his first in the 2021 season.
Hamlet scored five points in his first fight of the season, submitting Dan Spohn in April.
Bout 4: Joao Zeferino (25-9) vs. Jason Ponet (20-13-1) (Welterweight)
Zeferino Advances To Playoffs With Submission Win
Joao Zeferino clinched a spot in the 2021 PFL Playoffs on Thursday, submitting Jason Ponet in the second round with an arm triangle choke.
Zeferino scored a takedown early in the second round, securing an arm triangle choke from full mount. The fight was eventually stopped after Ponet tapped out due to the choke.
Zeferino had to overcome adversity early on, getting dropped by a right hook from Ponet. He was able to take control of the fight later in the frame with his wrestling, stopping the threat of strikes.
Zeferino finished his regular season with eight points in total. Along with headlining fighter Rory MacDonald, he is now secured a spot in the postseason.
Ponet was submitted within a round in his first fight of the season, being stopped by Ray Cooper III.
Bout 3: Magomed Magomedkerimov (27-5) vs. Curtis Millender (18-7) (Welterweight)
Magomedkerimov Wins Return With Rare Ezekiel Choke
Magomed Magomedkerimov scored a quick win in his first fight of the season, putting Curtis Millender to sleep in the first round with a rare ezekiel choke submission in the first round.
Magomedkerimov applied the choke quickly in the second minute of action after taking Millender down. Millender had success in the opening minute of the fight with striking, seemingly hurting Magomedkerimov with a leg kick.
Magomedkerimov made the playoff top four after his win, earning five points. The 2019 PFL champ had not competed earlier this season, as he withdrew on short notice from a bout against Joao Zeferino.
Millender was submitted in his previous fight as well, being stopped in April by Rory MacDonald within a round.
Bout 2: Tom Lawlor (10-8) vs. Jordan Young (11-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Lawlor Seemingly Retires Following First PFL Win
Tom Lawlor used wrestling to score his first win in years, defeating former Bellator fighter Jordan Young on scorecards (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27). Lawlor seemingly retired following the win, removing his MMA gloves and leaving them inside the PFL cage afterward.
Lawlor scored numerous takedowns in the fight and was the more active striker on the feet. His best moment came late in the second round, as he pursued an arm triangle choke for many minutes, eventually letting go at the end of the round.
The win was Lawlor’s first since 2015, with his three previous appearances before Thursday being losses. The 38-year-old lost his PFL debut earlier this year, being submitted by fellow former UFC fighter Antonio Carlos Junior.
Young was making his first PFL appearance on Thursday. He was entering the promotion after a seven-fight run in Bellator that resulted in six wins and one loss.
Bout 1: Sadibou Sy (8-5-2) vs. Alexey Kunchenko (20-2) (Welterweight)
Sy Uses Striking To Earn Decision Win
PFL vet Sadibou Sy finished his 2021 season with a win, defeating former UFC fighter Alexey Kunchenko via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28).
Sy had a strong opening to the fight, utilizing his striking to out-land Kunchenko on the feet. Sy nearly finished the fight early in the second round, wobbling and backing up Kunchenko with a right hand.
A large portion of the final round happened in a clinch position that Kunchenko held, earning him the round on scorecards.
The win for Sy finishes his playoff run with four points in total. He was given one point earlier in his season after a fight against Nikolay Aleksakhin finished in a no contest.
The fight was Kunchenko’s PFL debut. He was making his first appearance after a run in the UFC. He is now on a three-fight losing streak.