Brendan Loughnane’s 2021 PFL season was cut short when he ran into eventual champ Movlid Khaybulaev. With the Dagestani fighter out for the 2022 tournament due to injury, however, the featherweight division was wide open — and Loughnane kicked off his year at PFL 2 opposite Ryoji Kudo on Thursday.
It was a rocky start in the early going, with the lesser-known Kudo proving he was no pushover.
Not exactly well known to the casual MMA audience, Kudo showed some solid variety in his kicks, attacking the outside leg of Loughnane one moment, then going upstairs with the same leg a moment later. Loughnane fired a number of low kicks of his own, but he was caught and dropped by a Kudo right hand roughly two minutes in! Kudo immediately went after the finish, getting on top and dropping ground n’ pound from inside Loughnane’s guard. The British fighter would recover, escaping back to his feet; he’d land a spinning back kick moments later, but Kudo would fire another crisp right hand, the same attack that dropped Loughnane earlier in the round.
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While Loughnane survived the round, there was no question as to who had won it.
Loughnane made a play for a takedown early in the second round, but Kudo easily fought that off. A stiff jab by Loughnane would connect, but Kudo was firing combinations to Loughnane’s single strikes. Another attempt by Loughnane to clinch up by the fence and find a takedown failed. Loughnane was on his bicycle later in the round, staying out of range while Ryoji Kudo chased his opponent. Another clinch by Loughnane led to some knees landing, but Loughnane could not get the fight down. Instead, Kudo connected with another right hand off the break.
The lack of striking from Brendan Loughnane through two rounds was puzzling to say the least. Heading into the third, he quite possibly in need of a finish, though the second frame had been fairly close. Kudo, a ONE Warriors Series and Shooto veteran, meanwhile, was proving to be a very game opponent.
Kudo took a big swing and missed to open the final round. This time, it was the Japanese fighter looking for a takedown, but Loughnane stuffed the attempt with ease. Next, Loughnane changed levels, then did a bit of chain wrestling, going from a double-leg attempt to a body lock, then staying on Kudo as they went to the fence. Kudo briefly went down, was quickly back to his feet, but Loughnane stayed on him — where was that Brendan Loughnane through the opening two rounds? Kudo would break free, but back at center, Loughnane ducked under a punch and landed another, ever-so-brief takedown. Again, Loughnane stayed on his opponent, keeping a body lock in place until Kudo finally turned and got his back on the fence.
An accidental clash of heads then opened up a cut on Kudo, which brought in the doctor. With the blood flowing freely, the bout was waved off, sending it to the judges. With the third round in his back pocket and Kudo clearly winning the first, it came down to round two — and the judges saw it for Loughnane.
Official Result: Brendan Loughnane def. Ryoji Kudo by technical decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)