The Professional Fighters League returned to action with its primary international draw after kicking off its season schedule for 2023 across the pond last week with the inaugural PFL Europe event taking place in Newcastle, England.
PFL 1 took place on Saturday, April 1, from The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada, as the first game of the promotion’s fifth regular season.
The featherweights and light heavyweights also sought to emulate Simeon Powell and Dakota Ditcheva of PFL Europe by getting their careers off to a strong start.
By KOing Marlon Moraes in the second round with a leg kick at PFL 1, Brendan Loughnane grabbed a march on the other PFL featherweight competitors.
The PFL’s 2023 season kicked off in Las Vegas with the main event pitting Loughnane, who had won the 2022 featherweight championship, against former WSOF champion and UFC bantamweight title contender Moraes.
Loughnane saw a chance to make an early statement to the rest of the division after seeing the other 145-pound champions all claim their victories on the scorecards, and he duly delivered by finishing Moraes early in the second round with powerful leg kicks after punishing him with a barrage of kicks throughout the first round.
71 seconds into the second round, Loughnane had already thrown 18 leg kicks, all of which he successfully connected with, leaving Moraes down and unable to continue. Given the Brazilian’s apparent discomfort following Loughnane’s first-round onslaught, it appeared unlikely that Moraes would advance that far. The Brazilian’s corner was clearly concerned about his capacity to recover.
Moraes entered Round 2 in berserker mode as he rushed after Loughnane, wildly throwing strikes in a last-ditch attempt to turn the fight around and claim a dramatic knockout. However, after persuading the cageside doctor he was fine to continue, Moraes did so. Loughnane, however, was prepared for Moraes’ frantic approach and fought cleverly off the back foot before switching to his thigh.
Loughnane, however, was ready for Moraes’ desperate strategy and fought deftly off the back foot before switching back to his leg kicks to knock Moraes to the ground and cause referee Keith Peterson to intervene and call the fight off.
The only featherweight finish of the evening, Loughnane’s victory gave the Brit two points advantage over the rest of the competition after the first round of contests.
At featherweight, the grudge match between Chris Wade and Bubba Jenkins, both of whom had placed in the top two at 145 pounds, concluded with Jenkins’ victory. The “Bad Man” dominated their fight for significant stretches, earning him the win and the bragging rights while jeopardising Wade’s chances of making the playoffs.
In each of the fight’s three rounds, Jenkins significantly relied on his wrestling to put Wade on the back foot. Wade only received two breaks due to two alleged infractions that referee Chris Tognioni ruled on. But on both instances, replay reviews revealed that the incidents were legal strikes, and the action continued without punishment.
Wade was unable to respond to Jenkins’ constant assault, and the fight ended with scores being recorded.
Wade was unable to respond to Jenkins’ constant assault, and the fight ended with scores being recorded. Jenkins won by a landslide, according to all three evaluators, who gave him scores of 30-27.
Movlid Khaybulaev, the champion for 2021 at 145 pounds, began his campaign with a victory over Ryoji Kudo via lopsided decision, while Alejandro Flores and Gabriel Braga both earned triumphs via unanimous and split decision, respectively.
Marthin Hamlet and Josh Silveira both turned in standout performances in the light heavyweight division on the preliminary program, securing first-round submission victories to earn the most points possible in their respective regular season matches.
By using a rear-naked choke, Silveira defeated Sam Kei in two minutes and forty-six seconds, but Hamlet outperformed him by forcing Mohammad Fakhreddin to submit in just 65 seconds with the help of a vicious face crank.
Rob Wilkinson, the 2022 champion, outpointed Thiago Santos, a debutant and former UFC title contender, after three arduous rounds in the main event of the night’s 205-pound division.
Through the first two rounds, Santos’ power striking was largely neutralised by Wilkinson, who frequently punched his way into clinches and takedown attempts. Santos’ strikes were more effective in the final frame, but eventually it wasn’t enough to give him a victory on his PFL debut, as the champion from the previous season prevailed by scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 29-28.
Will Fleury and Ty Flores prevailed by decision in the other light heavyweight regular season fights of the evening, which were hotly fought contests.
Krzysztof Jotko of Poland was defeated by Fleury in a divided decision, and Delan Monte was defeated by Flores in a unanimous decision.
PFL 1: Full results
- Brendan Loughnane def. Marlon Moraes via TKO (leg kick) – Round 2, 1:11 – featherweight
- Rob Wilkinson def. Thiago Santos via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) – light heavyweight
- Will Fleury def. Krzysztof Jotko via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) – light heavyweight
- Movlid Khaybulaev def. Ryoji Kudo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – featherweight
- Bubba Jenkins def. Chris Wade via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – featherweight
- Marthin Hamlet def. Mohammad Fakhreddine via submission (face crank) – Round 1, 1:05 – light heavyweight
- Josh Silveira def. Sam Kei via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:46 – light heavyweight
- Alejandro Flores def. Daniel Torres via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) – featherweight
- Gabriel Braga def. Jesus Pinedo via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) – featherweight
- Ty Flores def. Delan Monte via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27) – light heavyweight
- Impa Kasanganay def. Cory Hendricks via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) – light heavyweight showcase bout