PFL 2019 Finals: Kayla Harrison Wins Big, Palmer and Schulte Retain

The pressure was on for Kayla Harrison, the Professional Fighters League’s golden goose. An unstoppable monster through her short run in MMA, the Olympic medalist needed to show she was ready to become the champion the PFL groomed her to be.

She did just that with an hour before New Year’s Day. Inside Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, Harrison defeated Larissa Pacheco via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45). As a result, she became the first woman to win the Lightweight Tournament for the PFL, while also becoming $1 million richer.

Pacheco (13-4) started the fight hot, but Harrison (7-0) put her down right away with one of the many takedowns she had in the bout. She then started pounding away at Pacheco. While Pacheco tried to force her way out, Kayla utilized the ground and pound to another level. She got the full mount on Pacheco and started pounding away once again. Right before the round ended, Pacheco finally broke free.

Round two saw Harrison utilize her speed and power, as she hit a side kick and immediately went for the takedown shortly after. Pacheco tried to block every move but Harrison held onto her. Kayla tried a rear-naked choke and while also mounting strikes, but Pacheco blocked the shots. Kalya continued that method until round three hit.

Pacheco managed to survive a true clean sweep after she took Harrison down to start round three. She also hit a big knee to the face of Harrison, but it was all for naught. Harrison once again dropped her to the mat, attempting to hit multiple hammer shots. Harrison continued to hit the body while Pacheco survived, much to the chagrin of the former.

The championship rounds would be interesting for Kayla, as the last time they fought her emotions were starting to get the better of her. While Pacheco started to rock Kayla with hits in the fourth, Harrison didn’t get into her own head and right then and there dropped Pacheco with a vicious takedown.

She tried the same in round five but missed. Pacheco’s offense finally came to life as she held Harrison onto a neck crank and hit her with a few rights. Harrison then secured the fight with a takedown, keeping Pacheco there until the final bell rang.

In the co-main event, Ray Cooper III avenged his finals loss last season by beating David Michaud via TKO to win the Men’s Welterweight Championship.

Losing to Magomed Magomedkerimov last year, Cooper was on a redemption path. He outsmarted his opponent right away; Michaud (18-6) went for a flying knee/Superman Punch combination early but Cooper (20-7-1) caught him with a one-two combo. Cooper then dropped him onto the floor and wouldn’t stop pounding away. He continued to have the ground advantage until Michaud was saved by the bell.

Round two saw an aggressive side of Michaud, as he landed stiff punches to the face and body of Cooper. Cooper once again used his power and brought Michaud down. By the cage, Cooper ended up hitting stiff shots to the body, with one bad blow to the ribs that dropped Michaud. He put the finishing touches on his masterpiece by hitting his face with heavy blows until the fight was called with 2:04 left in the second.

Other Notes from the night: Natan Schulte (Lightweight) and Lance Palmer (Featherweight) repeated as champions with two unanimous decision wins. Palmer easily took care of Alex Gilpin, who he has faced three times in this tournament. Utilizing his wrestling, Palmer pinned Gilpin down for the majority of the fight.

Schulte and Loik Radzhabov competed in one of the best bouts of the night. Initially winning the first round, Loik was stopped at every turn by the kicks of Schulte, who was relentless. Both fighters survived brutal blows and calculating attacks, earning a standing ovation by the MSG faithful, most of whom were their family and friends.

PFL Finals Main Card (7.p.m. ET, ESPN 2) 

Kayla Harrison def. Larissa Pacheco via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) – Women’s Lightweight Finals 

Ray Cooper III def. David Michaud via TKO (2:56 into round two)- Men’s Welterweight Finals 

Ali Isayev def. Jared Rosholt via TKO  (4:09 into round four) – Men’s Heavyweight Finals 

Natan Schulte (c) def. Loik Radzhabov via unanimous decision (49-44, 49-46, 48-47) – Men’s Lightweight Finals

Lance Palmer (c) def. Alex Gilpin via unanimous decision (50-43, 50-44, 50-44) – Men’s Featherweight Finals 

Emiliano Sordi def. Jordan Johnson via TKO (2:01 into round one) – Men’s Light Heavyweight Finals

PFL Finals Prelims (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Brendan Loughnane def. David Alex Valente via unanimous decision (30-27. 30-27, 30-27)

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