The second PFL championship and million dollar check of the 2022 season were on the line between welterweights Dilano Taylor and Sadibou Sy at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
Taylor (10-2) earned his spot in the finals after finishing MMA legend Rory MacDonald in August as a short notice replacement when former champion Magomed Magomedkerimov could not fight the ‘Red King.’ A year ago there was no guarantee that Dilano, who represents Jamaica, would even be on the PFL roster; he earned his spot in the PFL regular season, where he went 2-1, through the PFL Challenger Series.
Explosive Swedish kickboxer Sy (12-6-2) came into the fight with three consecutive decision victories including one of his own against MacDonald. This would be his first title opportunity with PFL after being with the promotion since the start of their season format in 2018 as well as his first five round fight ever.
Both men looked to change their lives and the lives of their families on Friday night with what would be the biggest win of almost anyone’s career. Ultimately, Sy staying the course through the years paid dividends.
Sy and Taylor opened the fight in their usual stances, southpaw for Sadibou and orthodox for Taylor. This would be an advantage for Sy given his propensity for powerful round kicks. Early on Taylor tried to crowd Sy to take away the kicks while Sadibou stayed on the outside and circled to stay off the fence while slamming in those round kicks, mainly targeting the body, when the opportunity presented itself. Volume was low as Dilano tried, unsuccessfully, to corner the Swede and defend against the kicks. According to PFL’s strike tracker, Taylor only threw twelve strikes in the five minutes of the first round, landing five. Meanwhile, Sy threw twenty and landed ten of his patented kicks, definitely the most damaging aspect of the round.
Taylor came out for the second round with much more intensity and volume, landing at least one significant leg kick early on amidst a flurry of feints and non-committal strikes. Sadibou responded as always, with a powerful body kick. It did not take long for the dynamic of the first round to reassert itself, for the most part. Taylor tried to figure out how to close distance on the longer fighter and corner him, experimenting with feints and even a shifting right hand at times with mixed success. Halfway through the round Dilano closed into the clinch and tried to get a single leg, targeting Sy’s historic weakness of wrestling, but Sy was able to keep Taylor from getting him down although Dilano did land several short uppercuts to the body in the clinch. The second round was much closer than the first. Although Sadibou Sy did land a good amount of kicks once again, Taylor had much more success getting in close and doing damage.
Early in round three Taylor shot a takedown from far out and got to Sy’s right knee but Sy was able to keep his balance and escape his opponent’s grasp, showing extreme growth from his past when he had trouble defending simple takedowns. The tepidly paced kickboxing bout continued after that. Sy had started using his orthodox stance more, was landing fewer big body kicks, and targeting the leg more. Taylor once again had trouble letting his hands go and when he did they mostly were avoided smoothly by the Swede. By the end of the round Sy seemed to have regained a slight lead, with his opponent landing just under two strikes per minute according to the broadcast.
The championship rounds opened with a surprise takedown attempt from Sadibou which was defended by Dilano Taylor. Taylor moved forward more aggressively and let his hands go more. As a result he was doing more damage early even if he rarely landed clean. Sadibou’s back was often forced against the fence, which was a rarity in the first three rounds. A good clinch knee to the body from Taylor was maybe the most significant strike of the round at the halfway mark. Due to all the pressure it was not until two minutes were left in the round that Sadibou landed his first clean body kick of the round. Even though his opponent was more aggressive, the evasiveness of Sy kept him safe most of the time, even when cornered, though he almost definitely lost the round.
The final round saw Taylor settle down a bit from his high intensity from the penultimate round as he was more methodical in his forward movement. This opened up more space and time for Sadibou Sy to throw his kicks. The men traded knees in the clinch around the two minute mark briefly before striking once again. A minute later Taylor finally landed a good right hand that snapped Sy’s head back, maybe his cleanest punch of the fight. Sy once again level changed, seemingly to defuse pressure, but quickly gave it up with a minute left. The tepid kickboxing match came to an end after five rounds to a chorus of discontented fans, perhaps spoiled from the amazing light heavyweight title fight just previous to this.
When the judges scorecards were read, it was Sadibou Sy who won the 2022 PFL welterweight championship and the life-changing one million dollar check by score of 49-46 across the board.
Official Result: Sadibou Sy def. Dilano Taylor by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)