PFL 5: Night of the underdog

PFL 5 Ceremonial Weigh In at the Overtime Elite in Atlanta, Georgia, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

The landscape of the PFL was flipped on its axis Friday night when the organization hosted its second event in Atlanta. PFL 5 showcased the featherweight and heavyweight divisions and with playoff spots up for grabs, many unfamiliar names would pull off upsets to stake their name in the million dollar playoff tournament.

Fans were left speechless and shocked from the opening fight all the way through the main event. But which fighters defied the odds and took control of their own destiny?

Ryoji Kudo

For featherweight Ryoji Kudo, the game plan was simple going into Friday night. Finish your opponent in the first round and secure your spot in the playoffs. But why was this?

The Japanese featherweight found himself on the opposite side of a controversial loss to Brendan Loughane in his first fight of the season after the two clashed heads. Because of this loss Kudo found himself without points, but luckily not out of playoff contention.

Kudo faced off against Alejandro Flores, with many favoring Flores to win and secure his spot in the postseason. Kudo had other plans. At the 2:52 mark of the first round, Kudo landed a massive overhand right that rendered Flores unconscious.

The knockout gave the Japanese fighter the second seed where he’ll square off against Bubba Jenkins in the first round of the playoffs.

Stevie Ray

The road to get back to fighting for Stevie Ray has been nothing short of grueling. For the Scottish born lightweight, once his time was up in the UFC, a decision had to be made: Keep fighting or hang up the gloves and call it quits?

That’s when the PFL came knocking and offered Ray a spot on the roster. Ray came to the conclusion that fighting was all he knew and signed with the promotion.

Ray would lose his first fight in the PFL against Alex Martinez and would have to do the impossible to squeak into the playoffs, finish Anthony Pettis.

The fight didn’t get off to the best start for the Scottish native, with Pettis winning a majority of the striking exchanges. However, things would change in the second round when Ray got a hold of Pettis’ back and began working his underrated submission game.

With just over a minute left in the round, Ray locked up a twister submission that forced Pettis to tap out. The crowd was left eerily silent as Ray paraded around the octagon. Ray picked up five points and stole the last remaining spot in the playoffs from the 2021 PFL champion, Raush Manfio.

Ray and Pettis will meet again in the first round of the playoffs.

“It’s the cherry on the cake. The win was huge, to qualify [for the playoffs] was a bonus. I think that’s the first twister submission hit in PFL history,” Ray said in his post fight interview. “I don’t even know what to say, I’m just buzzing.”

Matheus Scheffel

For the Brazilian heavyweight, Matheus Scheffel, his first season in the PFL has been nothing short of the cliche “Fed to the wolves”. Scheffel’s first fight was against the runner up in the 2021 season, Ante Delija.

Scheffel would unfortunately be knocked out by Delija, and his playoff chances would be reduced tenfold.

Scheffel would then be paired up against the reigning PFL heavyweight champion, Bruno Cappelozza, in the main event of PFL 5. Oddsmakers had Scheffel as a +450 underdog coming into the event. Fans bought into the odds and wrote Scheffel off almost completely. But were they in for a rude awakening.

The Brazilian heavyweight used his speed and quick combinations to frustrate Cappelozza and bring the fight to the champion. A lightning fast combination from Scheffel wobbled the former champion and from that point on the confidence was on Scheffel’s side.

“I realized I [had] nothing to lose in this fight. I lost the first one, so f— everything let’s have fun,” Scheffel said in his post fight interview.

The two Brazilians would slug it out for the remainder of the fight, but it was Scheffel who won the better of most of the exchanges. Scheffel won the fight via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28). However, the decision win was not enough and Scheffel is still eliminated from the playoffs.

The heavyweight was overcome with emotion following the official decision.

“I think I can be the real deal, you know? Just give me the chance,” Scheffel said in his post fight interview. “I think I proved it to you guys.”

Klidson Abreu

Heavyweight Klidson Abreu found himself in a real life ‘David vs Goliath’ scenario Friday night when he was slated to take on Renan Ferreira.

Ferreira picked up a 25 second knockout in his first fight of the season, the fastest in PFL history. On top of that Ferreira had an eight inch height advantage and ten inch reach advantage. For these reasons, Abreu found himself as the +360 underdog.

Right out the gate fans were surprised when Abreu implemented his strong ground game and controlled Ferreira for a majority of the first round.

This was the narrative for the fight. Abreu getting a hold of Ferreira and miraculously getting him to the mat and holding him there. Fans were shocked at what they were witnessing when Abreu got his hand raised at the end of the fight. Abreu won the fight via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Abreu unfortunately would still miss out of the playoffs despite having six points and a perfect season.

The PFL returns next Friday, Jul. 1 at the OTE Arena in Atlanta. PFL 6 will be the final fight card for the regular season and will showcase the men’s welterweight and women’s lightweight divisions, headlined by the undefeated, reigning two time champion, Kayla Harrison.