The 2018 Professional Fighters League Playoffs rolled into Long Beach on Saturday night, featuring playoff bouts in the Lightweight and Light Heavyweight divisions.
In the Lightweight Division bracket, Rashid Magomedov stamped his way into the finals after scoring a T.K.O. victory over Thiago Tavares in a semifinals bout. Earlier in the night, Magomedov fought to a draw against Will Brooks in a two-round, quarterfinal bout. Magomedov wound up advancing to the semifinals after the judges scored the first-round in his favor.
Magomedov was originally slated to face Islam Mamedov in the semifinals after Mamedov defeated Thiago Tavares in a quarterfinal bout earlier in the night. Tavares would end up replacing Mamedov in the semifinals, where he was eventually defeated by Magomedov.
At the post-fight media scrum, President of Fighting Operations Ray Sefo stated that PFL officials were told Mamedov had vomited twice after his bout, which resulted in Mamedov being pulled from the semifinal bout against Magomedov.
“We don’t know if he was coming into the fight with a little bit of a cold, or the two left hooks (Mamedov and Tavares) threw in the fight, cause remember, they both dropped each other,” Sefo said. “Those things probably had something to do with it, but he’s back from the hospital and he’s good.”
Magomedov would have a long layoff between bouts, with his quarterfinal fight taking place over two-and-a-half hours before his semifinal fight. However, Magomedov was not bothered by it. “I just rest longer, and more” Magomedov stated through a translator at the post-fight media scrum.
Magomedov’s opponent in the finals, Natan Schulte, earned his spot in the finals of the PFL Playoffs after defeating Chris Wade in the semifinals via Split Decision. Earlier in the night, Schulte fought to draw against Johnny Case in a two-round, quarterfinal bout. Schulte would advance to the semifinals after the judges scored the first-round in his favor.
Schulte and Magomedov will now face each other in the Lightweight Division finals of the PFL 2018 Season Playoffs on December 31st in New York City, with a $1 Million cash prize on the line. During the post-fight media scrum, Schulte stated that there will be some discomfort going into the bout, as the two are training partners who share the same jiu-jitsu coach.
“It’s going to be a little uncomfortable he said,” said Vinny Magalhães, who was acting as Schulte’s translator during the scrum. “It’s business, so they’re going to have to get the job done, Then after they go back to being friends again!”
Over in the Light Heavyweight bracket, PFL commentator and fighter Sean O’Connell earned a spot in the Light Heavyweight finals with two victories tonight. O’Connell’s first victory of the night would come after a Majority Decision against Dan Spohn in the quarterfinals. Later in the night, O’Connell would finish Smealinho Rama in the semifinals with a T.K.O. in the first round.
O’Connell will now go on to face the #1 ranked fighter in the PFL Light Heavyweight division, Vinny Magalhães. Magalhães made his way to the finals after defeating Rakim Cleveland via submission in the first round with a Kimura from a Triangle Choke in the quarterfinals. Later that night in the semifinals, Magalhães would also defeat Bozigit Ataev by submission via Kimura in the first round.
“Well, you don’t try to catch up to Vinny Magalhães’ grappling credentials in two-and-a-half months, right? You gotta find a way to stay away from him, stay off of him, keep him off of you,” said Sean O’Connell during the post-fight media scrum after being asked about Magalhães’ grappling skills.
“It’s a tough puzzle to solve. We’ve got, I don’t know, a hundred days or so to figure it out.”
O’Connell would also credit his coach, Jeremy Horn, for getting him through two fights in a night mentally and physically.
“He told me ‘look, just go back and sit down for five, ten minutes. Let the first one sink in. Then get ready to go again.’ It’s exactly what we did. I got the best coach in the world walking me through these experiences. Psychically and mentally, I felt great because he prepared me as much as I could’ve been prepared beforehand.”
As for Magalhães, his bout against O’Connell will be the first fight he will strategize and game plan for in the PFL Playoffs.
“For the finals, it might actually be the first fight that I’m going to be making…a real game plan. That’s the one guy. I don’t have to worry about anybody else. I know exactly who I’m fighting” Magalhães said at the post-fight media scrum.
“There’s no secret, you know, of what I want to do. I want to take him to the ground.”
So far in PFL competition, all of Magalhães’s victories have come by finish in the first round, with three by way of submission, and one by way of T.K.O.
O’Connell and Magalhães are now set to face off in the finals of the Light Heavyweight Division finals of the PFL 2018 Season Playoffs with a $1 Million cash prize on the line on December 31st in New York City.