WASHINGTON — Olivier (The Canadian Gangster) Aubin-Mercier won a hard-fought decision over American (Cassius) Clay Collard on Saturday to claim the PFL lightweight title and the US$1 million that goes with it for the second year in a row.
All three judges scored it 49-46 for the 34-year-old from Montreal, who may not return to the cage for a while.
"I'm going to take a break, I want to spend time with my family," an emotional Aubin-Mercier said after the fight.
Aubin-Mercier (21-5-0), who has won all 10 PFL outings, used his superior grappling to control Collard on the ground for much of the fight. The five-round bout ended with Aubin-Mercier glued to Collard's back like a limpet.
Collard landed 129 strikes to Aubin-Mercier's 86 but was taken down five times by the Canadian.
It was one of six titles decided on the night at The Anthem auditorium.
Unlike other MMA promotions, the Professional Fighters League features a regular season and playoffs, culminating in championship bouts with a title and seven-figure payday on the line. Aubin-Mercier knocked out Scotland's Stevie (Braveheart) Ray with one punch in the second round Nov. 25, 2022, to claim both prizes at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Aubin-Mercier nailed Collard (24-11-0 with one no contest) with a body kick and then took him down in a frenetic start to the fight. Aubin-Mercier took Collard's back, applied a body triangle and looked unsuccessfully for a submission.
They clinched at the fence in the second round with Aubin-Mercier scoring another takedown. Once again, the Canadian took Collard's back and applied a body triangle. But Aubin-Mercier's right calf was showing damage from Collard's kicks.
Aubin-Mercier dumped Collard again early in the third round. Back upright, they clinched at the fence with Collard stomping on Aubin-Mercier's feet.
Collard backed up Aubin-Mercier in the fourth, pressing the action. Collard attacked the body while Aubin-Mercier looked for another takedown.
Collard came out slugging to start the fifth, only to have Aubin-Mercier take him down. Yet again, Aubin-Mercier took Collard's back with a body triangle.
The PFL announced Monday it had acquired Bellator, promising to match the rival promotions' champions against each other in 2024. And Bellator champions were on hand Friday night checking out the opposition.
Brazil's Larissa Pacheco became the first PFL fighter to win titles in two divisions, taking the featherweight crown via unanimous (49-46) decision over Las Vegas-based Russian Marina Mokhnatkina (11-4-0). Pacheco (23-4-0) upset Harrison last year to win the lightweight title.
Brazilian Renan (Problema) Ferreira (12-3-0 with three no-contests) rallied to knock out Denis (The Russian Bogatyr) Goltsov (32-8-0) 26 seconds into the second round to win the heavyweight title. Ferreira, at six foot eight the tallest fighter in the PFL, had a seven-inch reach advantage over the six-foot-five Russian, who dominated the first round on the ground.
Peru's Jesus (EL Mudo) Pinedo (23-6-1) won the featherweight crown by stopping Brazilian featherweight Gabriel Braga (12-1-0) 58 seconds into the third round. Pinedo avenged a split-decision loss to Braga in April.
Russian Magomed Magomedkerimov (34-6-0) submitted 2022 welterweight champion (The Swedish Denzel) Sadibou Sy (16-7-2 with on no-contest) at 1:17 of the third round to claim the 170-pound title. Sy had won seven straight since an August 2021 loss by decision to Magomedkerimov, the 2018 champion who is now 15-1-0 in the promotion.
Former UFC fighter Impa (Tshilobo) Kasanganay (14-3-0) took light-heavyweight title honours with a dominant unanimous (50-45) decision over fellow American Joshua (Coninha) Silveira (11-2-0).
Derek (The One) Brunson, a UFC veteran making his PFL debut, dominated two-time former PFL welterweight champion Ray (Bradda Boy) Cooper III en route to a unanimous (30-27, 30-25, 30-25) decision. The non-title fight was contested at a catchweight of 187 pounds after Cooper (25-9-1) missed weight (186.8 pounds). He forfeited 20 per cent of his purse to Brunson (24-9-0).
In another non-title fight, two-time former PFL featherweight champion Kayla Harrison won a unanimous (30-27) decision over fellow American Aspen Ladd.
Harrison (16-1-0) was originally slated to face Canadian Julia (The Jewel) Budd. But the PFL said the 40-year-old from Port Moody, B.C., a former Bellator champion, had been released after a contractual issue.
Both Aubin-Mercier and Collard went 3-0-0 in PFL action this year.
Aubin-Mercier opened his campaign in April with a decision over former UFC fighter (Hurricane) Shane Burgos before stopping fellow Canadian Anthony (The Genius) Romero in the third round in June and Brazilian Bruno (Robusto) Miranda in the second round in August.
Collard, a father of four, has endured hard times. One of five brothers, he lost brother Chad to a car accident in 2021 and Cory to a drowning accident in July 2022.
Aubin-Mercier joined the PFL after leaving the UFC in 2019 on the back of consecutive losses to American Alexander (The Great Ape) Hernandez, Brazil's Gilbert (Durinho) Burns and Russia's Arman Tsarukya.
He won both of his PFL fights in 2021 but missed the start of the season through injury so did not figure in the playoffs. He won all four outings last year in claiming the 155-pound crown.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2023
The Canadian Press