It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
In his PFL debut, former Bellator lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks was successful on Thursday night, grinding out a victory over veteran Luiz Firmino in the main event of PFL 2.
The judges’ scores were 30-27 across the board in favor of Brooks, who was fighting in his hometown of Chicago.
Firmino, a 36-year-old from Brazil, is a crafty veteran who appeared five times in PRIDE, and he proved to be a tough puzzle for Brooks to solve. Firmino relentlessly pushed forward in the standup, but Brooks went to his bread-and-butter wrestling game to take control of the fight.
Brooks landed five takedowns in the fight and while he never came close to finishing Fermino, nor did Fermino ever get much in the way of offense over the course of 15 minutes.
With the win, Brooks snapped a losing streak of three fights, all of which were in the UFC.
“I felt like he was so tough.” Brooks (19-4) said. “My coaches were yelling for the jab. I hit him with everything and he kept moving forward.”
Brooks earned three points in the PFL’s lightweight standings. Under the PFL’s regular-season format, a fighter gets six points for a first-round finish; five for a second-round finish; four for a third-round finish; and three for a decision.
In a lightweight matchup, Brian Foster (28-10) and Ramsey Nijem won a round apiece, with Foster dominating the first and Nijem taking the second. Then Foster decided not to let it go to the judges. He landed a spinning back kick, followed with a wild flying knee that landed by Nijem’s ear, then rained down punches until the bout was waved off at the 0:23 mark.
Foster has now won two of his past three bouts, while Nijem (9-7), who was fighting officially for the first time since 2015, has lost three in a row.
“That guy is not an easy fight for anybody,” Foster said. “It was the timing, I jumped to get the timing and then I jumped again and then I hit it perfectly, and got the finish.”
There was a controversial finish in the lightweight bout between Jason High and Efrain Escudero. High dominated the first two rounds, but got caught in a guillotine choke early in the third. High’s hand hit the mat once as he attempted to improve his posture, which the referee interpreted as a tap, and the bout was declared a submission win for Escudero at the 0:35 mark.
High (21-7) pushed the referee after the bout, then threw chairs around on the arena floor before making his way to the backstage area. Escudero (30-13) won his second straight fight and for the fourth time in his past five.
Escudero, who took the fight on short notice, missed weight for the lightweight bout at 162 pounds and thus was ineligible to earn points in the standings. He wasn’t about to apologize for the way the bout ended.
”I thought I would be more out of shape, but I saw Jason was gassing out,” Escudero said. “I understand that we are all emotional, but we also have to understand we’re not the judges. And I felt a little tap and I knew it was just a matter of time before he gassed out anyway.”
In the main card opener, Sean O’Connell (18-9) earned five points with a second-round stoppage win over fellow UFC alum Ronny Markes. O’Connell, who did color commentary on the prelim portion of the card, landed a big left hook, then rained down a long series of uncontested punches as Markes covered up, until the ref finally waved things off at the 0:41 mark.
“I’m kind of an old dog, so learning new tricks isn’t that easy for me,” said O’Connell, who snapped a three-fight losing streak. “There was no way I was coming out to one of my favorite cities in the world and lose.”
Two-time Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison’s MMA debut was a success, as the Boston-area competitor submitted Brittney Elkin (3-5) in the opening round. A full recap of the Harrison-Elkin fight can be found here.
In undercard bouts of note, veteran light heavyweight Vinny Maghalaes improved to 15-9 (1 NC) with a first-round submission over Jamie Abdallah, getting the tap at 1:37 of the opening round for his 12th career submission win. … Former Bellator middleweight champ Brandon Halsey scored an injury TKO victory over Smealinho Rama at the end of the second round of their LHW fight. … In a strange commission ruling, Robert Watley was awarded a TKO victory over veteran Thiago Tavares when Tavares was unable to continue after a five-minute recovery period following a brutal low blow of a kick at 0:35 of the opening round. Full results can be found here.
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