In 2020, Clay Collard made a name for himself in professional boxing. Now he is putting on noteworthy performances in his primary sport, mixed martial arts.
The 28-year-old lightweight from Utah, who trains in Las Vegas, got all he could handle from Joilton Lutterbach but came away with a split-decision victory Thursday in the co-main event of PFL 4, as featherweights and lightweights vied for playoff positions. To cap off the night, two-division undisputed boxing champion Claressa Shields came from behind and earned a third-round TKO victory over Brittney Elkin.
Collard had defeated former UFC champion Anthony Pettis in his season opener in April, and he already locked up three more points when Lutterbach missed weight, guaranteeing him a playoff spot.
The weight miss made Lutterbach ineligible to advance to the playoffs, so he performed like a fighter under no pressure at this event at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two going for Collard.
Lutterbach, a Brazil-born 28-year-old who lives and trains in Germany, scored eight takedowns in the fight but never put Collard in serious trouble on the ground.
Women's lightweight showcase fight: Claressa Shields def. Brittney Elkin
If you fight Jenkins, you had better be ready to wrestle. Moffett found that out, just as Lance Palmer did in Jenkins' season opener.
Jenkins, a 2011 NCAA Division 1 champion wrestler and 2007 junior world championships gold medalist, plays to his strengths, and relentlessly so. By doing that, he makes his opponent fight his fight, at least most of the time.
Moffett survived the first two rounds and turned things around in the third. During those five minutes, he had some success in the standup and also put a tired Jenkins in some dangerous grappling positions. But Jenkins, who is 33 and fights out of Las Vegas, held on to the end to take 3 points and clinch a playoff spot.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28.
"I didn't put on my best performance, but we're gonna keep grinding," Jenkins (16-4) said. "We move on to the next round, and that's what's important."
Moffett, a 31-year-old from Homewood, Illinois, fell to 13-6 in his career with his third straight loss.
The bell sounded to end Round 3, and Diamond staggered across the cage toward his corner with his arms raised, hopeful and weary. Loughnane just dropped to the canvas where he was and leaned against the fence, exhausted. Both men were glassy-eyed and bloodied.
Loughnane (21-3) was the winner, but after it was over he knew for sure that he had been in a fight.
Two judges scored the bout for Loughnane, by scores of 30-27 and 29-27, and the other had it 28-28. The 3 points were enough for the 31-year-old from England, who earned a first-round stoppage in his first regular season bout, to clinch a playoff spot.
"I'm covered in his blood; he's covered in my blood," Loughnane said. "What a show for the PFL fans."
Early on, Loughnane was dominant. He was sharp in the standup, both offensively and defensively, as he switched stances to land punches and kicks and used his footwork to make Diamond (12-2) miss. Loughnane, meanwhile, was not missing. He hurt Diamond again and again, but the 30-year-old Californian would not go away.
By the third round, Loughnane appeared tired, and Diamond turned up his aggression, especially with his grappling. But Loughnane dug deep, made it through the round, and secured the win.
It's no wonder the judges were split on this one. Schulte scored nine takedowns, but did little after each time he brought the fight to the canvas. Martinez landed more strikes, and better strikes, and hurt his opponent with one low leg kick -- but he kept getting taken to the canvas.
The bottom line: Schulte, the champion in both of the PFL's two previous seasons, needed a finish to secure a playoff berth after dropping his season opener, and did not get it. Martinez, while getting the better of much of the action, suffered the first loss of his career.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28, with two of them going for Schulte.
Schulte (21-4-1), who is 29 and from Brazil, went undefeated in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons. But after going the distance in this bout, he lost control of his playoff future.
Martinez (8-1), a 27-year-old from Paraguay who fights out of Alberta, Canada, had to deal with a late change of opponents. He originally was slated to face former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, but Pettis was moved to the June 25 card. Instead, he got a two-time PFL champion who was a heavy betting favorite, and while he looked like a fighter with a strong future, taking Schulte to the limit, Thursday's fight didn't quite go his way.
Mercier, the 32-year-old from Montreal, hurt Held near the end of the first round, was on top late in Round 2 and landed some vicious uppercuts in the final round. But he couldn't finish Held, and had to settle for 3 points.
After coming into the fight with minus-1 point, because he was unable to compete in his season opener, Aubin-Mercier got the decision -- 30-27 on all three judges' cards -- but did not earn enough points to overcome the deduction and make the playoffs.
Nonetheless, Aubin-Mercier was emotional after the scores were announced, as he ended a three-fight losing streak dating back to his time in the UFC.
Aubin-Mercier landed again and again, often with damaging uppercuts, and he fended off Held's best offense. The 29-year-old from Poland is a leglock specialist, and twice in the final round he secured a leg. But Aubin-Mercier calmly worked his way free both times.
Held, who won his first regular season fight by decision, is also on the outside looking in on the men's lightweight playoff picture.
It took Radzhabov only 27 seconds to get his first victory of the season. He did not celebrate.
He and Aliev are friends, and as the bout started they met at the center of the cage and shook hands. Then they stood at boxing range and threw light jabs at each other, and it looked like this bout might be a little too cordial.
But then Radzhabov unleashed a left hook followed by a straight right hand that wobbled his opponent, then landed several uppercuts that dropped Aliev, who immediately covered up. Radzhabov, who is 30 and from Tajikistan, swarmed with punches on his motionless opponent, and then paused to look up at Keith Peterson and implore the referee to end it. Peterson finally did jump in at 27 seconds, and Radzhabov immediately shifted from delivering punishment to checking to see if his friend was OK.
Radzhabov (14-3-1) then walked away with his hands on his head, clearly not in a mood to celebrate the fastest knockout in PFL lightweight history.
The 6 points were the first of the season for Radzhabov, who reached the PFL lightweight finals in 2019. Aliev (20-7) , a 31-year-old from Russia, came in with 3 points.
All of a sudden, Moraes had urgency.
He had started the fight with a gift of 3 points after Stirn missed weight, and for much of the first two rounds of the fight, the 30-year-old Brazilian looked like he was willing to settle for that. Stirn took him down midway through the first round, and Moraes didn't do much to try to get off his back. When Moraes dropped Stirn early in Round 2, he didn't swarm to finish a compromised opponent and instead backed up to continue the standup fight.
This seemed like a curious approach for a fighter who had lost his season opener and needed every point he could get in his push to make the playoffs.
Then, suddenly, Moraes had 5 points. Taken down in the final seconds of the second round, he used a kimura to reverse position, flipped himself on top of Sitrn and then cranked the arm harder. Stirn tapped -- at 4:59.
"See you guys in the semifinals," Moraes (12-5) said after his first career submission. "Believe. You have to believe."
Moraes' playoff status was still to be determined, but at least Moraes went for it with gusto.
Stirn (11-5), who was making his PFL debut, is 29 and from Baltimore.
What great timing by Wade, who got his first knockout in a 25-fight career that goes back a decade.
He had just seemingly recovered after being hurt by a flurry of Ospanov punches midway through the second round. Wade, who had been moving forward the whole fight, backed up Ospanov against the cage and threw what looked to be intended to land as a body kick. But Ospanov leaned forward at the same time, and the kick connected to the head, wobbling the fighter from Kazakhstan and leading to a knockout at 2:18 into the round.
The 5 points for the second-round finish sewed up a playoff spot for Wade (19-6), who came into the bout with 3 points following a decision win earlier in the season.
But the 33-year-old from Islip, New York, was most excited for his first knockout.
"Oh, my god, the monkey I just got off my back, you don't know," Wade said. "I've been waiting for that my whole career."
The 31-year-old Ospanov (11-4), was making his PFL debut, and will not make the featherweight playoffs.