PFL 9 Sets Magalhaes-O’Connell, Schulte-Magomedov Tournament Finals on New Year’s Eve

By: Brian Knapp
Oct 13, 2018

Vinny Magalhaes has the look of a runaway train.

The longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt submitted Bozigit Ataev with a kimura in the Professional Fighters League light heavyweight tournament semifinals at PFL 9 on Saturday at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California. Ataev (19-3) -- who had earlier eliminated Emiliano Sordi (17-8) on a first-round technical knockout -- conceded defeat 1:58 into Round 1, his modest two-fight winning streak having run its course.

Magalhaes (18-9) closed the distance and pulled guard inside the opening minute. The 2011 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist then swept into top position, settled in half guard and transitioned to side control before framing the fight-ending kimura. Given the tap-or-snap option, Ataev made the wise choice.

The 34-year-old Magalhaes earlier needed just 80 seconds to submit the eighth-seeded Rakim Cleveland (19-11-1) with a first-round kimura. He will lock horns with Sean O’Connell in the light heavyweight tournament final on New Year’s Eve in New York.

O’Connell knocked out former World Series of Fighting champion Smealinho Rama in the other light heavyweight tournament semifinal. Rama (11-5-1) -- who had fought Maxim Grishin (28-7-1) to a majority draw in the quarters and moved on after he was awarded Round 1 by all three cageside judges -- bowed out 1:45 into Round 1.

O’Connell (20-10) walked through some serious artillery and twice sat down the New York-based Canadian with short but powerful left hooks. After the second knockdown, he assumed a kneeling position in Rama’s loose guard, let go with punches and rendered “The Prince” unconscious.

The 35-year-old O’Connell earlier eliminated Dan Spohn (18-6) with a majority decision.

Meanwhile, Natan Schulte escaped with a split decision over Chris Wade after a three-round battle in the lightweight tournament semifinals. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28, two of them siding with the top-seeded Schulte (14-3-1). Wade (14-5) had earlier advanced out of the quarterfinals with a majority decision against Robert Watley (11-3).

Schulte (14-3-1) spent a majority of the fight marching forward, a tactic that perhaps provided him with the edge he needed. Also working in the Brazilian’s favor were a pair of first-round takedowns. Wade, to his credit, was not dissuaded. He piled up points with crisp punching combinations, oblique kicks and the occasional spinning attack. However, his efforts went for naught, as he failed to slow Schulte’s forward progress.

American Top Team’s Schulte earlier fought to a majority draw with Johnny Case (23-6-1) but qualified for the semifinals by virtue of his winning Round 1 on all three scorecards. The 26-year-old Brazilian will meet Rashid Magomedov in the Dec. 31 lightweight tournament final.

Magomedov put away Thiago Tavares with punches in the second round of the other lightweight tournament semifinal. Tavares (22-10-1) -- who advanced in the draw after Islam Mamedov (16-2) withdrew due to concussion-like symptoms -- succumbed to blows 3:36 into Round 2.

A former M-1 Global champion, Magomedov (22-2-1) set the pace from the start, as he backed up the Brazilian with crisp punching combinations and probing kicks to the head, body and legs. He sprawled out of a takedown in Round 2, forced Tavares to his back and unleashed a barrage of standing-to-ground punches. Magomedov later freed himself from an attempted leg lock, hovered above his turtled counterpart and cranked out the punches until referee Frank Trigg had seen enough.

Magomedov earlier fought to a unanimous draw with Will Brooks (20-4-1) and moved into the semifinals by virtue of his winning Round 1 on all three scorecards.

In other action, former Bellator MMA champion Brandon Halsey (12-4) was awarded a unanimous verdict over Ronny Markes (18-7) in an alternate bout for the light heavyweight playoffs, earning 20-18 scores across the board; and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 finalist Ramsey Nijem (10-7) took a unanimous decision from Yuki Kawana (14-3-6) in an alternate bout for the lightweight tournament, drawing 19-18 marks from all three judges.

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