Thursday night’s 2023 PFL 4 card came to a shocking conclusion at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, GA — with a defending champion eliminated from the post-season.
Light heavyweight champ Rob Wilkinson had already been shown the door due to a failed drug test, but Brendan Loughnane, the 2022 featherweight champ, appeared to be sitting pretty heading into the event. Loughnane had five points towards the post-season to start the night, but as it turned out, that’s all he would have when all was said and done.
Which wasn’t enough to make the playoffs.
Loughnane was dropped early in the night’s main event, felled by a Jesus Pinedo body kick that folded him up. A few extra punches on the fallen champ, and Pinedo had the necessary “quick six” to secure a playoff berth.
UPSET! UPSET! UPSET JESUS PINEDO IS GOING TO THE #PFLPLAYOFFS!
— PFL (@PFLMMA) June 9, 2023
A former UFC fighter who went 1-1 with that promotion in 2019, Pinedo was coming off a split decision loss to Gabriel Braga. Brazil’s Braga also had a big night on Thursday, dropping Marlon Moraes, a former WSOF champ and UFC title challenger, with a right hand in the opening round. Hammerfists sealed the deal, and pushed Braga into the post-season.
With Bubba Jenkins and Movlid Khaybulaev both earning finishes on the night, Loughnane was pushed out of the playoff picture. Khaybulaev is the 2021 PFL featherweight champ, but missed all of the 2022 season.
Loughnane was arguably the promotion’s biggest star besides Kayla Harrison last year, completing his feel-good story by winning a major title, plus a million dollars, after being snubbed of a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series.
As for Moraes, his PFL return (if you count his WSOF stint, a precursor to the Professional Fighters League) saw him go 0-3, finished on all three occasions. Combined with his final UFC run, “Magic” has lost his last seven fights, all via KO/TKO.
There’s a good bet retirement sticks this time.
Moving into the post season, the playoff picture now looks like this (# denotes seed):
- (1) Bubba Jenkins vs. (4) Jesus Pinedo
- (2) Gabriel Braga vs. (3) Movlid Khaybulaev
At light heavyweight, meanwhile, it comes down to the following semi-final match-ups:
- (1) Joshua Silveira vs. (4) Ty Flores
- (2) Marthin Hamlet vs. (3) Impa Kasanganay