Larissa Pacheco stuns Kayla Harrison to win PFL lightweight title

Kayla Harrison, the two-time PFL women’s lightweight title holder and the promotion’s most dominant fighter, is unbeaten no longer. Larissa Pacheco, who had previously faced Harrison twice and lost both times, picked up a stunning win in her third crack at Harrison on Friday night in New York.

The bout was one of six PFL weight division championship finals held at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden.

Harrison (15-1), a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, came in as an 8-1 betting favorite. She and the PFL were already making plans for next year, removing her from regular-season competition to book her for “superfights,” presumably with a step up in competition. Pacheco may have foiled those plans.

The fight started well for Harrison, who grabbed an early takedown and threatened submission for much of the first round. But Pacheco (19-4) withstood that difficult five minutes and fought back in the second round, using her strong standup skills to land heavy punches and using a strong takedown defense to turn the tide to turn.

The fight appeared to be a tie in the fifth round and Pacheco was the fresher fighter at this point. She landed some hard punches at Harrison, who eventually landed a takedown but couldn’t capitalize.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 in Pacheco’s favour. Prior to that fight, Harrison hadn’t lost a single round in her career. Harrison is ranked No. 8 in the ESPN pound-for-pound women’s top 10, the only PFL fighter in those or divisional rankings.

When Pacheco received the championship belt and an oversized replica $1 million check, she credited her opponent with playing a role in getting her to where she is now in her career.

“Just like Kayla said, I’ve always made her a better competitor,” Pacheco said through an interpreter. “Well, she always made me a better competitor. She drove me to this moment.”

https://www.espn.com/mma/story/_/id/35111028/larissa-pacheco-stuns-kayla-harrison-win-pfl-lightweight-title Larissa Pacheco stuns Kayla Harrison to win PFL lightweight title

Emma Bowman

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