Larisa Pacheco shocked the world.
In a stunning performance, Pacheco handed two-time champion Kayla Harrison the first loss of her career in the main event of a PFL Championship card on Friday in New York City.
Pacheco displayed a punishing combo while forcing Harrison to work every position she landed over five rounds while also nearly pulling a submission of her own on the floor. Even when Harrison could get deeper into takedowns, Pacheco would attack her with punches and deal more damage over the course of five rounds to get the nod when the fight was over.
All three judges scored the fight 48-47 with Pacheco defeating Harrison.
“It’s the culmination of a career,” Pacheco said after her upset win. The culmination of a dream. It means the world to me.”
Roughly a 10-to-1 underdog as the night began, Pacheco began teetering away from Harrison’s indomitable aura once she had room to work while showing no fear even in grappling competition with the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo.
As the fight got under way, Harrison wasted no time closing the distance and landing a slippery inside flight that sent Pacheco to the canvas in the opening round. Harrison was methodical with her ground attack as she set up her punches while pushing Pacheco towards the cage to trap her there to deliver more punishment.
Pacheco found an opening to counter wrestling Harrison with a guillotine choke from a double leg takedown attempt, which put the lightweights into a scramble to the mat. In the end, Harrison got back on her feet, but Pacheco showed that she wouldn’t concede a situation on the feet or on the floor.
Late in the second round, Pacheco finally connected with a stinging combination that put Harrison on her back foot for the first time. Pacheco lunged forward with another barrage of punches as Harrison looked to avoid further damage.
When the fight eventually found its way to the floor again Pacheco nearly locked a triangle choke but Harrison refused to give up as she fought her way free. This led to Harrison moving into the rack as she looked to beat Pacheco with her uppercut while punches rained down from the top.
With no desire to play on the feet with Pacheco anymore, Harrison immediately began closing the distance to look for takedowns once the fight faded into the tournament rounds. While Harrison did her best to maintain control, Pacheco was constantly threatening from below and hitting setbacks to get the fight back in place again.
Any time Pacheco had a chance to throw strikes, Harrison pushed her payout as she continued to fight close into the final five-minute session.
When Harrison tried to secure the victory with another takedown, Pacheco began to punish her with a series of punches and punches. Harrison eventually had to let go of his leg to avoid the blows but was able to take advantage of Pacheco’s mistake to land on top again.
Even from there, Pacheco was still landing stinging punches from below, preventing Harrison from launching any attack of her own.
When the decision was read, Pacheco celebrated the biggest win of her career while a dejected Harrison tasted defeat for the first time in her mixed martial arts career.
“This belt just motivates me to work harder,” said Pacheco. “I have a lot to do in this sport.
“Just like Kayla said before, I’ve always made her a better competitor while she’s always made me a better competitor and she’s led me to this moment now.”
The result will surely rock the NFL ahead of 2023 as Pacheco takes the lightweight title while Harrison has already said she has no plans to compete in championship format again. Given the stakes in this fight, the promotion will almost certainly try to match these two again in the near future.
The full results for the 2022 PFL Championship Card are below:
Larissa Pacheco Def. Kayla Harrison via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Brendan Loughnan def. Bubba Jenkins via TKO (knockouts) – 4th round, 2:38
You are Delija def. Matheus Scheffel by knockout (punches) – 1st round, 2:50
Aspen Lade def. Julia Budd via split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier defeated. Stevie Ray via knockout (punch) – 2nd round, 4:40
Sadebo is defeated. Delano Taylor via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Rob Wilkinson defeated. Omari Akhmedov via TKO (doctor’s stop) – 2nd round, 5:00
Preliminary card (ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m. ET)
Sheymon Moraes def. Marlon Moraes via TKO – third round, 0:58
Nathan Schulte def. Jeremy Stephens via submission (arm triangle) – Round 2, 1:32
Magomed Magomedkerimov def. Gleeson Tebao via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Dakota Decheva defeated. Kathryn Koroginis via KO – Round 1, 4:20
Biagio Ali Walsh defeated. Tom Graesser via KO (punch) – Round 1, 0:45
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