Lightweight, Welterweight Finals Set Following PFL 9, OAM, Collard Shine

Olivier Aubin-Mercier 2023 PFL 9
Olivier Aubin-Mercier 2023 PFL 9: New York at the The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

The PFL semifinals are a wrap, and the six final match-ups are set for later this year as of Wednesday’s PFL 9 in New York City.

Both of Wednesday night’s welterweight semifinals went the distance, with Magomed Magomedkerimov handily winning a unanimous decision over replacement fighter Solomon Renfrew. While Magomedkerimov, a former PFL champ, dominated that fight, things were much closer in Sadibou Sy vs. Carlos Leal. It was Sy, last year’s 170lb kingpin, picking up the split decision win, resulting in a champ versus champ fight of sorts at the finale on November 24 in Washington, D.C.

The first lightweight semifinal of the night on Wednesday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden saw another returning champ, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, in action. The Canadian was paired up with Brazil’s Bruno Miranda, who was forced to block a head kick about halfway through the opening round, one of a number of attacks that appeared to have Miranda off his game. OAM fought out of a southpaw stance, which appeared to compound the Brazilian’s struggles; the left hand also found success for champ OAM, while Miranda did land to the body with some authority later in the frame.

To open the second, Aubin-Mercier dropped Miranda with a left, and got on top, landing a right hand as well. Miranda appeared to have recovered quickly, but Miranda worked in punches and soon passed to half-guard. With roughly 90 seconds to go, OAM moved to mount, landing some punishing left hands. Miranda would manage to reclaim guard, but it was an ugly spot for Bruno Miranda, with OAM moving back to mount and smashing his way to a TKO victory shortly thereafter!

That set one half of the lightweight final. The second finalist came via Clay Collard vs. Shane Burgos, about as fan-friendly a match-up as the PFL could offer. And while the league utilizes a sports-based format, they had opted to assemble this final after yanking Natan Schulte from the post-season following a low-action affair with Raush Manfio in June.

Burgos got in the driver’s seat early in the contest, opting to clinch up rather than stand and trade with the heavy-handed Collard, who had dabbled in boxing over the years. But when the clinch game failed, Burgos was forced to contend with Collard’s stand-up after all, with Clay’s game plan clearly to rely heavily on body shots. Burgos answered by chopping at Collard’s lead leg, but Clay turned up the heat in the final minute, backing Burgos up and hurting him.

Early in the second, it began to feel like it came down to who could execute their game plan first, and more effectively – as Burgos’ leg kicks were adding up, hampering Collard’s movement, while Clay’s own standup was taking its toll. After some hard shots had landed from both men, Burgos took Collard down with a leg kick! Collard somersaulted over backwards, but got back up — and soon dropped Burgos with a left! Collard got on top, in guard, with a minute and a half left to work. Burgos would scramble out; escape to his feet and survive what turned out to be the best round of the night.

The leg kicks continued to flow for Burgos in round three, and Collard soon went to one knee, grimacing. He also found a home for his right hand, then again, followed by another calf kick. With just over two minutes to go, Burgos landed a takedown from the back, but Collard was quickly back to his feet. Collard’s output had become stunted but he wasn’t out of it entirely, and fought through the pain of a relentless leg kick attack to make it to the final bell, albeit hobbled in the process. That was key, however — Collard had done enough in the first two rounds to win the fight on all three scorecards, setting up a date with Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the final.