Ray Cooper III dominated former Bellator champion Rory MacDonald over three rounds on Friday night in the main event of the first PFL playoff card of the 2021 season. It was arguably the most important win of his career, and now Cooper gets the showdown he really wants against the last fighter to defeat him inside the PFL’s SmartCage, Magomed Magomedkerimov.
Cooper violently prevented “The Red King” from seizing his PFL welterweight crown, and now he’ll hope to do the same against 2018 PFL welterweight champion, Magomedkerimov.
“This was my plan. I was gonna run through everybody and I get him next. He’s not gonna be able to get away this time,” Cooper said.
Cooper, 28, from Hawaii, just seemed stronger and more skilled than former UFC title challenger, MacDonald. It was a surprisingly dominant win for the PFL champ over what was supposed to be one of the toughest opponents of his career.
While most pundits expected MacDonald, 32, from Canada, to be more precise with his attacks than the hard-charging “Braddah Boy”, the fight actually turned out to go Cooper’s way just about everywhere it happened.
He was the better striker, the better wrestler, and he threatened with more submissions throughout the night.
Magomedkerimov Remains Undefeated in PFL
Meanwhile, Magomedkerimov enjoyed a similar kind of dominance over his opponent, Sadibou Sy.
While Sy’s sniper-like style of striking kept the 31-year-old Russian from running right through him, Magomedkerimov had 15 full minutes to put all the skills on display that have helped him remain undefeated in PFL action as well as the oddsmaker’s favorite to continue the same this season.
Magomedkerimov’s victory means the last two PFL welterweight champions are set to collide at the 2021 PFL World Championship on October 27.
Magomedkerimov defeated Cooper by second-round submission in 2018. Cooper has long wanted the rematch, and now he’ll have it.
Cooper vs. Magomedkerimov Is Perfect End to PFL Season
The upcoming rematch between Cooper vs. Magomedkerimov couldn’t have worked out better for the PFL. The fight features two home-grown PFL stars with a legit rivalry, and the winner will put a stamp on his name as one of the best welterweights in the world.
Last season’s champ, Cooper, didn’t have to face the 2018 champ, Magomedkerimov, due to an injury, but now the 170-pound rivals will finally meet again with PFL gold on the line and one million dollars.
The 2021 World Championships are set for October 27 at the same venue currently hosting the playoff cards.
Cooper vs. Magomedkerimov is just one of the six total world championship fights that will happen that night at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Semi-final fights in the women’s lightweight and heavyweights division take place on August 19, and light heavyweight and featherweight fighters will duke it out on August 27.
PFL Lightweight Championship Set for October 27
Friday’s card also featured semi-final matchups in the men’s lightweight division.
The shocker of the night came when Raush Manfio defeated Clay Collard by unanimous decision. Manfio, 29, from Brazil, didn’t throw or land as many strikes as Collard, 28, from Utah. But the judges seemed to favor his seemingly more powerful punches and kicks, so now Manfio will fight for the championship.
Manfio’s opponent on October 27 will be Loik Radzhabov. The top-seeded lightweight in this year’s bracket avenged an earlier loss in the season against Alexander Martinez.
It was a back-and-forth fight that competed at an extremely high pace, but Radzhabov just seemed to get the better of the American.
Now, top-seeded PFL star Radzhabov and surprise finalist Manfio will meet for PFL gold at 155 and one million dollars on the line.
Radzhabov, 30, from Tajikistan, was one of the favorites to be in his position at the beginning of the season, but Manfio is a sudden star who thought his MMA career was over before being signed at the last minute to fight in the PFL.
Manfio will hope to claim his first world championship on October 27.
Complete PFL Card Highlights and Results
You can watch PFL highlights below.
Below are the full-card results for the PFL playoffs card on August 13.
Ray Cooper III def. Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Magomed Magomedkerimov def. Sadibou Sy by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Raush Manfio def. Clay Collard by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Loik Radzhabov def. Alexander Martinez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
Gleison Tibau def. Micah Terrill by first-round submission (2:17)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Darrell Horcher by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-26, 29-27)
Brett Cooper def. Tyler Hill by first-round KO (2:32)
Magomed Umalatov def. Leandro Silva by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Michael Lombardo def. Kyron Bowen by TKO (3:42)
Elvin Espinosa def. Hopeton Stewart by first-round technical submission (2:45)
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