2021 PFL 3:
The 2021 PFL regular season reached its midpoint Thursday night with 2021 PFL 3, featuring the first chance for Women’s Lightweight and Heavyweight contenders to score points.
Fights Called Off:
Two fights were postponed from this evening due to withdrawals or fighters being unfit to take to the cage:
Denis Goltsov vs. Justin Willis [Heavyweight: Willis withdrew from the event. Goltsov faced Mo De’Reese in Willis’ stead. Willis did, however, make weight for the card, and was not penalized for this withdrawal.]
Ali Isaev vs. Hatef Moteli [Heavyweight: fight postponed as both men were unfit to compete after Isaev and Moteli failed to make weight—with both men tied for last place at -1 point in the standings.]
Despite the two postponements, the event proceeded as a full 10-fight card.
Of those 10 fights, seven ended in stoppages, resulting in a 70 percent stoppage rate on the evening.
Heading into its monthlong hiatus after tonight, the PFL has now presented 28 fights in 2021, with 13 ending in stoppages, resulting in a stoppage rate of 46.4 percent for the promotion.
So far in 2021, Sports Drink has now seen 387 total MMA fights, with 200 ending in stoppages, resulting in a stoppage rate of 51.6 percent all told.
The Fights Themselves:
Magomed Umalatov vs. Kyron Bowen:
Action began with a Welterweight showcase between Magomed Umalatov (10-0) and Kyron Bowen (9-6), each of whom wanted to impress PFL brass enough to be considered for a future season.
As this was a showcase, no points were on the line here.
It was all Umalatov, all the time in the first round, scoring with ground control from the top position, peppering Bowen with ground and pound shots in hopes of landing a submission.
He’d continue to pepper Bowen with shots later in the round, with hammerfists to deliver an exclamation point.
Round two lasted for only a few seconds as he landed a vicious right-handed shot on Bowen, who was dropped in the process, to earn the stoppage.
If I’m with the PFL, I start drafting a contract for Magomed Umalatov on Friday morning.
This is a fight whose highlights will assuredly go viral, provided, of course, that they haven’t done so already.
What is the PFL waiting for?
Umalatov has shown that he’s got the chops to make it in the PFL, so it would behoove the promotion to sign him ASAP.
Give him his shot.
He’s earned it.
Helena Kolesnyk vs. Taylor Guardado:
Tournament competition began with the second fight of the evening between Helena Kolesnyk (5-3, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings) and Taylor Guardado (1-1, 1-0 2021 PFL, three points in the standings) in a Women’s Lightweight bout where both of these contestants were making their PFL promotional debut.
Round one was almost exclusively a grappling affair, as Guardado accumulated ride time from top position, before Kolesnyk landed some stand-up strikes as the round ended.
Guardado continued to apply pressure, including from the clinch, in round two, despite a Kolesnyk eye gouge from the ground and pound earlier in the period.
This fight went the distance, with the decision and the three points going to Guardado after three rounds.
Claressa Shields interview:
The ESPN+ portion of the show closed with an interview by Sean O’Connell of Claressa Shields, who revealed that she’d be making her promotional debut next month at PFL 4.
Denis Goltsov vs. Mo De’Reese:
Heavyweights opened up the ESPN portion of PFL 3 with this fight between Denis Goltsov (26-6, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings) and Mo De’Reese (8-3, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings).
As previously mentioned, De’Reese stepped in on short notice upon Justin Willis’ withdrawal from the card after he had already weighed in.
Despite the last-minute adjustment in opponent, it was all Goltsov, all the time, for as long as this one lasted—as he landed a barrage of strikes throughout the opening round, finishing De’Reese and scoring six points in the standings for the second stoppage of the night.
Genah Fabian vs. Laura Sanchez:
Your fourth fight (and second in the Women’s Lightweight tournament) saw Genah Fabian (3-1, 1-0 2021 PFL, three points in the standings) fight Laura Sanchez (1-1, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings).
Fabian scored repeatedly in the first round with kicks, giving her the period.
She then scored with the clinch throughout round two, providing more of the same in round three, giving Sanchez a cut in the process.
After 15 minutes, this fight went to the scorecards, with Genah Fabian taking it by decision.
Cindy Dandois vs. Kaitlin Young:
The card stayed in the Women’s Lightweight ranks as Cindy Dandois (16-6, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings) and Kaitlin Young (12-10-1, 1-0 2021 PFL, three points in the standings) did battle in the penultimate fight of part one.
Round one was a stand-up battle, with Kaitlin Young being the aggressor during the period.
Young continued to pepper Dandois in round two—landing two-punch combos.
Dandois had a comeback attempt in round three, nearly finishing Young with a standing guillotine choke before Young was able to fight it off—still, though, this was her best round of the fight.
She needed to finish Dandois in round three and she almost did.
Young was the winner by unanimous decision after three rounds.
Ante Delija vs. Bruno Cappelozza:
Part one closed with the second bout in the Heavyweight tournament between Ante Delija (17-4, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings) and Bruno Cappelozza (11-5, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings).
Folks, this one was fun while it lasted, as Cappelozza landed a flurry of punches against the fence on Delija before the referee waved off the fight for six points in the standings and the third stoppage of the evening.
The win put Cappelozza level on points with Goltsov for first place in the standings.
At 46 seconds into the first round, Cappelozza overtook Goltsov in first place at this point in the evening, with fight length being used as the tiebreaker.
Larissa Pacheco vs. Julija Pajic:
Part two of PFL 3 began with this Women’s Lightweight contest matching Larissa Pacheco (14-4, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings) with Julija Pajic (3-1, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings.)
Pacheco immediately dumped Pajic after scoring a left hook, landing serious ground and pound shots and taking top position—with Pajic’s corner rescuing her by throwing in the towel.
The TKO was the fourth stoppage of the evening, giving Pacheco, who fought Kayla Harrison for the championship in 2019, six points in the standings.
Mohammad Usman vs. Brandon Sayles:
The Usman family is a household brand in MMA, with Kamaru recently claiming the UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 261, but now it was his brother Mohammad’s (7-2, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings) chance to take his step toward a title in the Heavyweight ranks vs. Brandon Sayles (6-2. 1-0 2021 PFL, five points in the standings).
This was a close fight through the first round and a half, until Sayles established separation by attempting a standing guillotine.
Sayles dumped Usman and scored a rear-naked choke, forcing Usman to tap out in the second round for stoppage number five on the night.
Co-Main Event: Kayla Harrison vs. Mariana Morais:
You could have made a case for either of the two fights at the top of this card as the main event of PFL 3 on Thursday night, as both looked worthy on paper.
Your co-headliner was the anticipated Women’s Lightweight tussle between Kayla Harrison (9-0, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings) and Mariana Morais (16-11, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings).
It was all Harrison, all the time for as long as it lasted, as she landed relentless ground and pound shots to Morais to score the first-round knockout and six points in the standings—appropriately enough, it was the sixth stoppage of the night.
Main Event: Fabricio Werdum vs. Renan Ferreira:
Thursday was a banner night in the Heavyweight tournament, with two winners scoring six points thanks to first-round stoppages, making the main attraction between Fabricio Werdum (24-10-1, 0-1 2021 PFL, no points in the standings) and Renan Ferreira (7-2, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings) that much more critical.
Either man in this fight needed to finish his opponent in 45 seconds or sooner in order to wrest first place away from Bruno Cappelozza—but neither would get the finish that quickly.
Both men came out swinging in the first round, with Werdum taking top control and moving to half-guard from the command to fight.
Ferreira was able to quickly reverse the script to take top position and nearly ended this one by submitting Werdum, but he fought out of it.
Renan Ferreira scored with repeated hammerfists to land the knockout, completing the upset for the seventh stoppage of the night.
EDIT: MAY 12, 2021: The New Jersey State Athletic Commission overturned this outcome to a no-contest Monday, giving each man one point in the standings, the same as a draw.