PFL 5 Report: Stevie Ray submits Anthony Pettis, Scheffel upsets Cappelozza
By: Eric Marcotte
On Friday night, the PFL held the fifth card of their regular season from the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This card featured the final bouts of the 2022 regular season for the featherweight and heavyweight divisions, as well as a singular bout in the men’s lightweight division, a fight between Anthony Pettis and Stevie Ray. The main event saw the 2021 PFL Heavyweight Champion, Bruno Cappelozza, face Matheus Scheffel, with Scheffel looking for a necessary first-round stoppage that would allow him to qualify for this year’s playoff bracket. The top featherweight bout on the card saw Chris Wade face Kyle Bochniak, as Wade looked to claim the top seed in the division against Bochniak, who would need a quick finish if he wanted to secure his own spot in the playoffs. The commentary team for this event consisted of Sean O’Connell, Kenny Florian, and Randy Couture.
To quickly recap the PFL’s “league” structure: The PFL implements a unique scoring system. A win earns you three points, and you have the opportunity to gain bonus points depending on the way in which you win the fight. If a fighter were to get a finish in the first round, they would earn a total of three bonus points (resulting in a grand total of six points from that win). A second-round finish would earn a total of five points, a third-round finish would result in a total of four points, and a decision win would simply award the standard three. A draw or a no-contest results in one point gained for each fighter. The four fighters from each division with the most points accumulated throughout the season will earn spots in their division’s playoff bracket, and the fighter that emerges victorious in each division’s bracket earns a million-dollar prize.
*Brendan Loughnane def. Ago Huskic by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Ryoji Kudo def. Alejandro Flores by KO at 2:52 of Round 1
*Juan Adams def. Sam Kei by TKO at 2:30 of Round 2
*Lance Palmer def. Sheymon Moraes by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
*Denis Goltsov def. Maurice Greene by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Bubba Jenkins def. Reinaldo Ekson by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Ante Delija def. Shelton Graves by unanimous decision (29-27 all)
*Chris Wade def. Kyle Bochniak by TKO at 1:10 of Round 1
*Klidson Abreu def. Renan Ferreira by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Stevie Ray def. Anthony Pettis by modified body lock at 3:57 of Round 2
*Matheus Scheffel def. Bruno Cappelozza by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
DENIS GOLTSOV (28-7, 244.2, 6 PTS) VS MAURICE GREENE (10-6, 241.4, 0 PTS) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, was notably in Greene’s corner, and the broadcast often focused on his advice throughout the bout. Goltsov swept Greene to the ground against the cage roughly thirty second into the bout. Goltsov attempted to lock in an arm triangle, but the position was slightly off, and Greene was able to avoid the submission attempt. Goltsov did not do a ton of damage with his top position, but he was able to maintain it for the entirety of the round, and this was a very clear round in his favour. 10-9 Goltsov.
Goltsov did not change his strategy in the second round, as he quickly took Greene back to the ground, where he began to work from Greene’s guard. This time, they were eventually stood up due to inactivity, however, Goltsov just brought Greene right back to the cage, where he was able to drag Greene down once more. Once again, Goltsov did not do a ton of damage throughout the round, but he was able to control Greene for the near entirety of the five-minute period, and Greene did not appear to have any answers for Goltsov’s wrestling. 20-18 Goltsov.
Goltsov caught Greene with a left hand to begin the final round, prompting Greene to fire back with a heavy right. Goltsov wrapped Greene up in the clinch, where he proceeded to trip Greene to the ground. Goltsov naturally followed him down and began to work from Greene’s guard once more, landing short strikes from top position. The crowd was begging referee Gary Copeland to stand the fighters up, and Copeland complied, returning the fighters to the feet with just over ninety seconds remaining in the bout. This did not heavily influence the fight, however, as Goltsov just took Greene back down, and finished the fight in top position. 30-27 Goltsov.
WINNER: Denis Goltsov by unanimous decision (30-27 all) (3 PTS)
Greene was unable to stop the takedowns from Goltsov throughout this fight, and Goltsov was largely successful in maintaining top control after getting Greene there. While it was far from the most entertaining fight, this was a dominant performance from Goltsov, who secured his spot in the heavyweight playoff bracket with nine points accumulated in total throughout the season. Goltsov’s total PFL record now stands at 7-2.
BUBBA JENKINS (17-5, 145.8, 3 PTS) VS REINALDO EKSON (18-5, 145.2, 0 PTS) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Ekson was landing strong counters early, catching Jenkins on his way in with a hard kick to the body at one point. It did not take Jenkins long to catch Ekson however, as he took him down near the cage with roughly four minutes to work. Jenkins took the back of Ekson at one point, however Ekson was able to escape to his feet, where he landed a spinning kick to the body. Jenkins responded with a pair of heavy left hands, as well as a strong body kick of his own. They traded wild shots to end the round, before staring each other down. 10-9 Jenkins.
Jenkins quickly brought Ekson back to the ground in the second round, but once again, Ekson was able to escape to his feet. On his next takedown attempt, Jenkins opted to lift Ekson into the air, where he proceeded to slam him down to the ground. Jenkins was working from half guard here, peppering Ekson with short strikes from top position. Ekson attempted a kimura off of his back, but the positioning wasn’t there, and Jenkins was able to avoid the submission attempt. 20-18 Jenkins
The takedown threat from Jenkins had left Ekson somewhat hesitant to engage on the feet, and Jenkins was matching his early activity in the third round. A kick from Jenkins landed low, resulting in a momentary pause in the action. Ekson landed a few good shots shortly after the fight resumed, but Jenkins was successful in backing Ekson into the cage, where he proceeded to take him right back down to the ground. Jenkins was able to maintain top position until time expired in the fight. 30-27 Jenkins.
WINNER: Bubba Jenkins by unanimous decision (30-27 all) (3 PTS)
While the fighters seemed to be fairly evenly matched on the feet, Jenkins had the clear advantage on the ground, and it was his wrestling that won him this bout, repeatedly taking Ekson down. Jenkins is a strong wrestler, so this was hardly a surprising performance, but I thought his striking looked much improved throughout this fight. With two decision victories this season, Jenkins qualified for the 2022 PFL Featherweight Playoffs, where he will face Chris Wade in the opening round, who eliminated him from the tournament last year.
ANTE DELIJA (20-5, 246.8, 5 PTS) VS SHELTON GRAVES (9-5, 265.6, 0 PTS) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Delija and Graves wrestled against the cage early, as Graves looked to take Delija to the ground. The fighters separated with just over two minutes remaining in the round, and Delija turned this fight into a bit more of a brawl, flurrying forward with strikes. Graves fired back, landing some big shots of his own, but an accidental clash of heads led to a brief pause in the action. Delija connected with a few solid straight right hands before the fighters began to brawl wildly, not stopping for a couple of seconds well after the bell rang. 10-9 Graves.
Graves muscled Delija back to the cage with four minutes to work in the second round. Delija reversed the positioning until the fighters were finally separated due to inactivity. The fighters were repeatedly clashing heads, and the referee opted to take a point away from Graves, which was a questionable decision considering that both fighters were ducking into these headbutts. The fight soon returned to the cage, where they wrestled to a stalemate. This was a tough round to score, but I gave the slightest of edges to Delija. 19-18 Delija.
The fighters continued to clash heads in the third round, and these inadvertent headbutts had taken their toll on Delija, whose face was a bit of a mess as a result of all of these collisions. Both fighters were looking tired as they continued to wrestle in the clinch, and neither man was really pulling ahead in these exchanges. Delija landed the better shots whenever they would briefly separate, which may have been the difference-maker on the scorecards. I scored the fight 29-27 in favor of Delija.
WINNER: Ante Delija by unanimous decision (29-27 all) (3 PTS)
This was hardly the most entertaining fight, with the vast majority of the damage coming from the numerous headbutts, but Delija was just a bit more effective when the fighters were separated, and that was likely what earned him the final two rounds on the judges scorecards. I didn’t agree with the referee Brent McKeehan’s decision to deduct a point from Graves due to the headbutts, but ultimately, it did not factor into the decision, as Delija unanimously won two of the three rounds. Delija accumulated a total of eight points throughout the 2022 PFL season, and qualified for the playoffs as a result, ultimately securing the division’s second seed by the end of the night.
CHRIS WADE (21-7, 145.6, 3 PTS) VS KYLE BOCHNIAK (11-6, 145.8, 0 PTS) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Wade tagged Bochniak with a number of leg kicks early, and the damage had quickly accumulated on Bochniak’s lead leg. Once the damage had been done, Wade went for a head kick, and he caught Bochniak clean, knocking him down. Wade followed Bochniak to the ground, and he proceeded to finish the fight with ground and pound strikes.
WINNER: Chris Wade by TKO at 1:10 of Round 1 (6 PTS)
Wade fought a perfect fight here, damaging the lead leg of Bochniak until he lowered his guard, before ending the fight with a perfectly timed head kick. It appeared as though Bochniak may have tweaked his knee slightly on an early takedown attempt, and Wade capitalized, immediately targeting it to great effect. As Wade had already earned three points by defeating Lance Palmer by decision earlier this season, this first-round finish skyrocketed Wade to the top of the division, ending the season with a total of nine points. This also marked the final featherweight bout of the regular season, so with the playoff bracket finalized, Wade will be set to meet the fourth-seeded Brendan Loughnane in the first round, and on the other side of the bracket, the second-seeded Ryoji Kudo would be matched up against the division’s number three seed, Bubba Jenkins.
RENAN FERREIRA (9-2, 1 NC, 261.2, 6 PTS) VS KLIDSON ABREU (16-5, 1 NC, 258, 3 PTS) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Ferreira caught Abreu with a short right hook to begin the fight. Neither fighter was terribly active early in the round, and the first big moment came two and a half minutes into it when Abreu took Ferreira down with a well-timed takedown. Abreu worked for an armbar, but Ferreira did a good job of defending the submission attempt, and he was able to limit the damage from Abreu’s ground and pound shots as well. 10-9 Abreu.
Abreu connected with a heavy left hand to start the second round. Abreu proceeded to take Ferreira back down, and this time he had four minutes to work from top position. Much like the first round, Abreu was unable to really threaten a finish from the advantageous position, but he maintained it for the near entirety of the round, so this was another relatively easy one to score in his favor. 20-18 Abreu.
Abreu was able to drag Ferreira back to the ground in round three, where he began to work from half guard. Abreu postured up on occasion, where he was able to land some solid ground and pound shots, but was largely content to ride out the round in top position, ultimately ending the fight where he spent the vast majority of it. 30-27 Abreu.
WINNER: Klidson Abreu by unanimous decision (30-27 all) (3 PTS)
This was a particularly dull bout, but there was no arguing with the decision. Abreu took Ferreira down at will, and Ferreira had no answers for Abreu once the fight reached the ground. Unfortunately for Abreu, not securing a finish in this bout resulted in him missing out on a playoff spot, and the PFL’s strange tie-breaker scenario’s rank total finishes above all else. So, despite Abreu defeating Ferreira here, both fighters having six points in total, and having two wins as opposed to one for Ferreira, it was Ferreira who secured a playoff spot as a result of this fight, due to his first-round stoppage victory over Jamelle Jones in April. By the end of the night, Ferreira was officially the third-seeded fighter in the 2022 PFL heavyweight playoff bracket, and he will meet Ante Delija in the opening round.
ANTHONY PETTIS (25-12, 155.4, 6 PTS) VS STEVIE RAY (23-10, 155.6, 0 PTS) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Pettis began the fight with an axe kick, which he followed up with a flying knee that narrowly missed its target. Ray caught Pettis with a solid right hand, before pushing him against the cage. Pettis quickly reversed the positioning but did not accomplish much with it before the fighters separated. Ray began to pressure forward, and that pressure was causing problems for Pettis, who was not particularly active offensively as a result. A general lack of activity made this a tough round to score, but I gave the narrow edge to Stevie Ray.
Pettis partially landed a head kick in the opening minute of round two, catching Ray as he moved forward. Pettis dug into the body with a kick, before connecting with a question mark kick. Ray continued to pressure forward, which prompted Pettis to change levels as he attempted to take the fight to the ground. Ray defended the attempt, and he began to work from top position, attacking Pettis with ground and pound before taking his back, where he locked in a tight body triangle. Pettis twisted into top position, however he hurt his ribs in the process, and tapped as a result.
WINNER: Stevie Ray by modified body lock at 3:57 of Round 2 (5 PTS)
This was one of the stranger finishes that you’ll see in MMA, and it’s even stranger because a very similar thing happened to Anthony Pettis years ago in his fight against Dustin Poirier. As Pettis attempted to turn into the body triangle, his leg got caught, which caused the triangle to really dig into his ribs. The broadcast updated us on Pettis’s condition later in the night, saying that he seemed to be fine, but there was concern from his camp that he may have reinjured the rib that he fractured in that fight against Poirier. Regardless of the injury, I thought Ray fought a very smart fight here and became one of the very few fighters to finish Anthony Pettis. As a result of this second-round finish, Ray earned himself five points, and secured the fourth seed in the lightweight bracket. Interestingly, Anthony Pettis finished the 2022 season as the top-ranked lightweight fighter regardless of this loss, so Pettis and Ray will fight each other yet again in the opening round of the lightweight playoffs, assuming of course that Pettis is healthy and cleared to compete by then.
BRUNO CAPPELOZZA (15-5, 237.2, 6 PTS) VS MATHEUS SCHEFFEL (15-8, 254, 0 PTS) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Both fighters were having a bit of difficulty finding their range early. Cappelozza’s movement in particular seemed to be causing difficulties for Scheffel, who only had three strikes landed by the halfway point of the round. Eventually, Scheffel cracked Cappelozza with a right hand, and Scheffel closed the distance as he attempted to finish the fight. Cappelozza started shooting for takedowns in response, but Scheffel defended his attempts, keeping the fight on the feet. Scheffel had Cappelozza in a lot of trouble here, and while Cappelozza started swinging back, he took a lot of damage throughout the final minute or so of this round. 10-9 Scheffel.
Cappelozza seemed to have recovered by the second round, but Scheffel had gained confidence following the ending of the first round, and his pressure was leading to success on the feet. It felt as though Cappelozza was the more hesitant fighter by this point in the bout, and he was falling behind in the fight as a result. Both men had landed numerous kicks to the lead leg of the other, and the damage was adding up, limiting their movement. Cappelozza came on late in the round, as he finally started moving forward. This was a very close round, but I gave the slight edge to Scheffel. 20-18 Scheffel.
The fighters traded wild shots to begin the final round. Scheffel landed a solid hook, before catching Cappelozza with an overhand right. Cappelozza attempted to bring the fight to the ground, but his lead leg had taken a lot of damage, and as a result, the effort wasn’t quite enough to bring Scheffel down. The strike count throughout this final round was very close, and much like the second round, I thought this was a tough one to call, but ultimately, I thought Cappelozza did enough to earn the nod. 29-28 Scheffel.
WINNER: Matheus Scheffel by unanimous decision (29-28 all) (3 PTS)
Scheffel tagged Cappelozza with some big shots at the end of the first round, and Cappelozza never really got going here, possibly due to the accumulated damage that he sustained throughout this bout. Scheffel was a sizeable underdog against the 2021 PFL Heavyweight Champion going into this bout but Scheffel fought with an intelligent gameplan, landing heavy leg kicks that limited Cappelozza’s movement. Despite the big win for Scheffel, it was Cappelozza who was still factored into the 2022 heavyweight playoff picture after this fight, as his first-round finish against Stuart Austin awarded him the tie-breaker over Klidson Abreu, who also secured six points throughout the season, but did not finish either of his opponents. Cappelozza will meet the first seeded Denis Goltsov in the opening round of the heavyweight playoff bracket.