PFL 5: Drama As Women’s Featherweight Season Wraps, Heavyweights Punch Their Way to Post-Season

Larissa Pacheco and Amber Leibrock, 2023 PFL 5
Larissa Pacheco and Amber Leibrock, 2023 PFL 5: Atlanta at the OTE Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, Friday, June 16, 2023. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

Friday night’s PFL 5 card in Atlanta, Georgia was both exciting — and more than a little confusing.

Olena Kolesnyk left her fate to the fight gods at the event, or so it seemed. At the very least she appeared to leave it to her contemporaries in the women’s featherweight division.

Kolesnyk secured three points thanks to a decision win against Yoko Higashi on the preliminary card at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta. That gave her five points total for the season — but also meant that the possibility of being eliminated, and missing out on the playoffs, was very real.

Per the PFL broadcast, which showed Kolesnyk watching from the back, she needed Aspen Ladd’s fight with Karolina Sobek to go longer than two rounds, or for Larissa Pacheco to shoot an air ball in the co-main event.

Ladd wasn’t willing to go easy, however, securing an arm-bar submission with seconds left in the second round of her fight. That left Kolesnyk seemingly on the bubble, hoping for a Pacheco loss — until the PFL broadcast issued a correction: due to Kolesnyk holding a win over Ladd, the Ukrainian featherweight actually held a tie-breaker between the two. As both had five points for the season, Kolesnyk was seeded ahead of Ladd.

That left Ladd needing Pacheco to record a goose egg in her fight with Amber Leibrock. Pacheco, however, had other plans. She came out guns blazing, scoring a quick six points after swarming Leibrock with lefts and rights. The win shot her to the top of the PFL women’s featherweight standings; Pachecko heads to the post-season looking to become the promotion’s first fighter to win titles in two separate weight classes, as the Brazilian claimed lightweight gold a year ago.

The heavyweight division was another story. It was returning champ Ante Delija, having missed the first fight of the season, who needed an early finish on Friday. But against Maurice Greene, he lacked urgency early, only becoming dominant later in the bout.

That was enough for Delija to take the win, and eliminate Greene from the post-season. Delija won’t be moving on either however. Renan Ferreira, Jordan Heiderman and Marcelo Nunes, all of whom had first-round finishes on Friday, jumped into playoff spots, joining Denis Goltsov, who had 12 points on the season with back-to-back first-round finishes.

The post season for heavyweight and women’s featherweight breaks down as follows:

2023 PFL Heavyweight Semifinals

  • Denis Goltsov vs. Jordan Heiderman
  • Renan Ferreira vs. Marcelo Nunes

2023 PFL Women’s Featherweight Semifinals

  • Larissa Pacheco vs. Olena Kolesnyk
  • Marina Mokhnatkina vs. Amber Leibrock