Moldavsky Scores First-Round KO; Santos Victorius in PFL Debut

April 8, 2024
1 month

The PFL is back for 2024! The primary regular season is underway and started in a big way with a massive card from San Antonio, Texas. Which heavyweights and women’s flyweights would impress and start the season with victory?

Moldavsky Starts With a Bang in the Main Event

The main event on this card couldn’t have been more enticing as two major heavyweights collided for the spoils at the Boeing Center in San Antonio. Valentin Moldavsky was a previous Bellator heavyweight interim champ, while his opponent, Ante Delija, won the 2022 heavyweight season in the PFL. Now, with the best of Bellator coming over, could the Croatian former winner keep up with the rising quality of the competition?

Simply put, no, he couldn’t. The Ukrainian-born Russian representative, Moldavsky, weathered an early storm from the Balkan fighter. He then put together his combinations, opening up several cuts on Delija. One particularly nasty right rocked Delija, leading Moldavsky to go in for the kill. After multiple strikes and no reply, the ref declared Moldavsky’s TKO win. MMA news sites are reporting on how dominant the win was and how it stopped the Croatian’s five-fight winning streak.

Bellator Champ Carmouche Triumphant in Trilogy Fight

The merger of Bellator and the PFL makes for enthralling fights. With the rosters combined, Bellator fighters can compete in the PFL—even champions like Liz Carmouche. She did, however, vacate the belt to focus on PFL. Not wanting to come on this journey alone, she brought her long-time nemesis, Juliana Velasquez, with her, and the PFL fans got to witness Carmouche vs. Velasquez III.

Carmouche won the first two fights in Bellator for the flyweight title by stopping her Brazilian adversary first by KO and then making her tap out in the second meeting. Velasquez has improved, given that she went the distance with Carmouche this time, but was still outclassed as the American got the unanimous decision. This came from Carmouche controlling the fight for large portions, especially considering the number of successful offenses the fighters landed.

Ditcheva Goes 11-0 with First Round KO

How far can Dakota Ditcheva go? The Manchester, England, fighter has impressed the MMA community by dominating PFL Europe. She won two of her three fights in the season with a first-round knockout, including the final against Valentina Scatizzi. With ten wins in the bank and stepping up to the regular PFL roster, MMA news websites pondered whether she could make this step up.

The acid test would be against Lisa Mauldin, a fascinating American fighter who mixes her MMA with boxing commitments. While the Texas crowd may have wanted to cheer their countrywoman with the incessant USA chants, contrastingly, it was another case of Rule Britannia as Ditcheva secured yet another first-round win, silencing the crowd with a barrage of strikes that secured her maximum points.

James Secures Comeback Win

It was an excellent week for athletes called Daniel James. The Welsh Leeds United midfielder scored a goal from the halfway line at Elland Road, and the American MMA fighter secured six points in the PFL. 

Staying with the latter, James was on the wrong end of a beating for most of the first round. The American Predator was Marcelo Golm’s prey for the early going. The Brazilian could land effective punches, among other strikes, debunking any offense from James. Golm had top control for large sections; however, the American fighter showed resilience in staying in the fight.

With much of the round going his way, Golm tried to reposition for the final 90 seconds. This turned out to be a strategic mistake. James was able to wrangle control and land fists from an elevated position. He continued to pound at the Brazilian until the ref stepped in with one second left, as Golm seemed unresponsive. Despite losing much of the fight, James secured all six points.

Santos Makes Joanne Tap

It made MMA breaking news when Taila Santos left the UFC in November 2023. She had gone five rounds with Erin Blanchfield and Valentina Shevchenko in fights she could have won. While she initially remained silent on her next step, it was soon apparent she was linking up with the PFL. She makes up an outrageously stacked new division in the promotion, as she fought fellow Brazilian Ilara Joanne in her debut.

The start was a tactical battle with Santos, slightly mounted, but Joanne could counter and negate much of the damage. The former UFC fighter used her grappling skills to secure different positions and holds as it appeared that her opponent began to tire. Santos got back to her feet and allowed Joanne back up if only to knock her back down immediately. This time, she had a rear naked choke applied, which, after enough pressure, led to Joanne tapping out. The knockout specialist showed she’s incredibly talented in all areas of MMA, becoming one of the early favorites for the division title.

Goltsov Makes Hard Work of Win

Denis Goltsov has become synonymous with quality fighting in the PFL heavyweight division. He’s fought in the promotion since 2019 and has been in three semi-finals and even a final. Hoping that 2024 will see him go one further, the big Russian took on the former Bellator fighter Linton Vassell.

While British MMA followers might look favorably on Vassell’s performance, he was incredibly defensive through the fight – and it was only a matter of time until Goltsov ground him down. It took 13 long minutes in this co-main event match, but the Russian eventually stopped his opponent from back control, leading to a stoppage win.

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By Dean McHugh.