Rory MacDonald came within a round of being UFC welterweight champion. He later did win a Bellator championship. And on Thursday night, he will begin a quest to capture the PFL welterweight championship and the $1 million prize that comes with it — and it’ll take four fights to get there.
MacDonald (21-6-1), a 31-year-old fighting out of Montreal, faces fellow UFC and Bellator alum Curtis Millender in the main event of the second PFL event of the 2021 season. The eight-fight card at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, opens the season for welterweights and light heavyweights.
MacDonald challenged Robbie Lawler for the UFC belt in 2015 and was ahead on the scorecards before being knocked out in the fifth round of a classic fight. MacDonald won the Bellator title in 2018, defeating Douglas Lima, who regained the championship in a rematch in 2019.
Ray Cooper III (20-7-1), the 2019 PFL champion, fights promotional newcomer Jason Ponet (20-12-1) in the co-main event of the evening.
Also on the card is the 2019 PFL season’s light heavyweight champ, Emiliano Sordi (22-8). The Argentine faces Chris Camozzi (25-14), who will be making his PFL debut after having competed in the UFC.
With the first four fights in the books, the PFL 2 broadcast resumes at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Light heavyweight note: Due to Vinny Magalhaes’ issue with making weight, he had one point deducted from his season total. Jordan Young, Magalhaes’ scheduled opponent, received 3 points for a walkthrough.
Light heavyweight: Antonio Carlos Junior (6 points) def. Tom Lawlor (0 points) by first-round submission
Two minutes into this meeting between two former UFC fighters making their PFL debuts, Carlos got a takedown, but fell right into a Lawlor guillotine choke. A problem for the 31-year-old Brazilian? Not at all.
Carlos (11-5, 1 NC) is a two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion. He calmly lingered inside the submission attempt, gradually working his neck out of danger. That put Lawlor in danger, as he was losing control with a jiu-jitsu master on top of him.
Within moments, Carlos had fluidly advanced to full mount position, and when he could not sink in a submission from there, he started throwing punches. That led to a grappling scramble, which produced another guillotine, this time with Carlos clamping it on. And it took only a few seconds before Lawlor was tapping out.
That gave Carlos the win at 4:43 of Round 1, good for 6 points in the PFL standings. The victory ended a three-fight skid.
Lawlor (10-8), who is 37 and fights out of Las Vegas, had not fought since November 2018 and has not won since 2015.
Light heavyweight: Cezar Ferreira (6 points) def. Nick Roehrick (0 points) by first-round TKO
Ferreira showed in his PFL debut that he is not one to waste his time, or his energy.
The 36-year-old Brazilian, who fights out of Boca Raton, Florida, hurt Roehrick with a body kick in the opening seconds, followed up with a flurry of pinpoint punches that backed the American against the cage and then finished him at 37 seconds.
It was as efficient as performances get, as the former UFC middleweight landed practically every strike he threw, leaving Roehrick no escape on the way to being left slumped against the cage. For Ferreira (14-8), the 6-point win ended a two-fight losing streak.
Roehrick (9-2), who is 33 and fights out of Denver, also was making his PFL debut. He came in having won two in a row.
Welterweight: Sadibou Sy (1 points) vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin (1 point) ended in a no-contest (accidental eyepoke)
Aleksakhin’s aggression controlled Round 1. Sy turned his own offense up a notch in Round 2, and he was getting the better of the exchanges. But before either man could put a final stamp on the bout, a Sy eye poke to Aleksakhin ended it prematurely.
The end came after Aleksakhin (24-5, 1 NC), who is 30 and from Russia, came forward with punches. Sy retreated toward the cage, but as he did so he extended his right hand, and a finger went into his opponent’s left eye. Aleksakhin, who came in having won seven in a row, was examined by a doctor inside the cage before referee Keith Peterson waved it off at 1:56 of Round 2.
“I felt better in the second round than in the first round,” said Sy (8-5-2, 1 NC), a 34-year-old from Sweden, “so I was just hoping for him to be able to continue.”
Light heavyweight: Marthin Hamlet (5 points) def. Dan Spohn (0 points) by second-round technical submission
Fifteen seconds, then five seconds. That’s how long it took Hamlet to get a takedown in each of the first two rounds of the opening bout of PFL 2 against Spohn.
After the first takedown, he spent the rest of the round — the last 4:55 — on top of Spohn, landing short punches but nothing that did significant damage. Hamlet appeared content to just maintain his controlling position.
In Round 2, however, the 29-year-old from Norway got right to work after his early takedown, quickly securing an arm-triangle choke. That rendered Spohn unconscious at 52 seconds of the round, giving Hamlet (7-1) a 5-point victory in his PFL debut.
Spohn (18-8), who is 36 and from Columbus, Ohio, never got going, suffering his third straight loss.
Still to come at PFL 2 …
ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET
Rory MacDonald vs. Curtis Millender | Welterweight
Ray Cooper III vs. Jason Ponet | Welterweight
Joao Zeferino vs. Gleison Tibau | Welterweight
Emiliano Sordi vs. Chris Camozzi | Light heavyweight
*The welterweight fight between Magomed Magomedkerimov and Aleksei Kunchenko will take place at PFL 3, on May 6.
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