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Kayla Harrison reached her first mountaintop in mixed martial arts.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist captured the 2019 Professional Fighters League championship with a unanimous decision over Larissa Pacheco in the women’s lightweight final on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. All three judges sided with the undefeated Harrison (7-0, 7-0 PFL): 50-43, 50-45 and 50-45.
Pacheco (13-4, 2-2 PFL) could match neither the strength nor the technique of the American Top Team standout across five one-sided rounds. Harrison executed multiple takedowns, battered the Brazilian with ground-and-pound and achieved full mount on multiple occasions. Beyond an attempted guillotine choke in the fifth round, Pacheco posed little threat to the decorated American judoka.
Heavy-Handed Cooper III Folds Michaud
Ray Cooper III cut down MMA Lab representative David Michaud with punches in the second round of their 2019 PFL welterweight tournament final. Michaud (18-6, 3-2 PFL) bit the dust 2:56 into Round 2, his modest three-fight winning streak at an end.
Cooper (20-7-1, 7-2-1 PFL) zapped the South Dakotan with a close-quarters knee strike to the body in the first round in a precursor of what was to come. Michaud had his chances, as he had the 808 Fight Factory export reeling with punches and knees in the middle stanza. Cooper withstood the assault, pressed him into the fence and uncorked a left hook to the liver that dropped “The Bulldawg” where he stood. His body racked by pain, Michaud was in no condition to defend himself against the punches that followed.
The 26-year-old Cooper has posted back-to-back victories since he fought Sadibou Sy to a majority draw on Oct. 11.
Unbeaten Isaev Subdues Rosholt
Onetime Olympian Ali Isaev kept his perfect professional record intact, as he disposed of three-time NCAA All-American wrestler Jared Rosholt with punches in the fourth round of their 2019 PFL heavyweight final. Rosholt (21-7, 7-3 PFL) bowed out 4:09 into Round 4.
Isaev (9-0, 5-0 PFL) took a slow-burn approach, utilizing takedowns, top control and ground-and-pound to beat the 33-year-old Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran at his own game. In the fourth round, the Dagestani brute lulled Rosholt into a false sense of security in the clinch, landed a sneaky takedown, slashed away with left hands and ultimately assumed a crouching position above the turtled Oklahoman. Rosholt offered nothing that resembled intelligent defense, resulting in the stoppage.
The setback closed the book on Rosholt’s three-fight winning streak.
Schulte Repeats, Downs Radzhabov
American Top Team’s Natan Schulte leaned on a stout chin and a merciless barrage of leg kicks, as he claimed a unanimous decision over Loik Radzhabov and repeated as Professional Fighters League champion in the 2019 PFL lightweight final. Schulte (20-3-1, 9-0-1 PFL) carried all three scorecards: 49-44, 49-46 and 48-47.
Radzhabov (13-2-1, 2-2-1 PFL) was the aggressor at the start and blitzed the Brazilian judoka with power punches. He did his best work at close range, where he often outperformed Schulte in extended standup exchanges. However, the damage he sustained to his legs proved to be too much for him to overcome. Schulte continued to target the former German MMA Championship titleholder’s lower extremities and slowly but surely broke his resolve.
Undefeated in 10 appearances under the PFL banner, Schulte has pieced together a seven-fight winning streak since he fought Johnny Case to a majority draw in October 2018.
Relentless Palmer Suffocates Gilpin
Repeated takedowns, crushing top control and flawless submission defense carried Lance Palmer to his second straight Professional Fighters League championship, as the four-time NCAA All-American wrestler cruised to a five-round unanimous verdict over Alex Gilpin in the 2019 PFL featherweight final. The top-seeded Palmer (22-3, 11-0 PFL) swept the scorecards with 50-43, 50-44 and 50-44 marks from the judges.
Outside of an attempted north-south choke in the first round, Gilpin (14-4, 2-3 PFL) failed to stay upright and was woefully ineffective off his back. Palmer, 31, advanced to top position in all five rounds, maintained a steady pace with his ground-and-pound and made his methodical march to a lopsided decision.
The No. 4 seed in the 145-pound draw, Gilpin has suffered back-to-back defeats for the first time as a professional.
Surging Sordi Blasts Johnson
Top-seeded Emiliano Sordi put away former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Jordan Johnson with punches in the first round of their 2019 PFL light heavyweight final. The No. 7 seed in the 205-pound tournament, Johnson (12-2-1, 2-2-1 PFL) succumbed to blows 2:01 into Round 1.
Once Sordi (22-8, 6-1 PFL) denied the UFC veteran’s bids for takedowns, the outcome became a formality. The Argentinian sent Johnson to all fours with a scorching right hand along the fence, then proceeded to blast him with hammerfists and punches until referee Dan Miragliotta had seen enough. It was the first stoppage loss of Johnson’s 15-fight career.
Sordi, 28, has won five fights in a row.
Kick-Centric Loughnane Outpoints Duarte
A kick-heavy attack carried Dana White’s Contender Series alum Brendan Loughnane to a unanimous decision over David Alex Duarte in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Loughnane (19-3, 2-0 PFL), who has rattled off five consecutive victories.
Duarte (11-5, 0-0 PFL) struggled to establish a rhythm, his efforts often interrupted by a consistent volley of kicks to the body and legs from his British counterpart. Loughnane salted away the win in the third round, where he executed a takedown, dictated terms of the engagement with his ground-and-pound and steered clear of danger.
A 29-year-old Glover Teixeira protégé, Duarte now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak.