Brazil’s Larissa Pacheco looked to make history at the 2023 PFL Championship, as she was seeking to become the promotion’s first two-weight class champ in a featherweight title fight with Marina Mokhnatkina.
Having dethroned Kayla Harrison to claim the women’s lightweight title a year ago, and undefeated through nine straight fights, there was little question Pacheco was entering the 2023 final brimming with confidence.
Right out of the gate, Pacheco opened fire, backing Mokhnatkina up with lefts and rights. Marina managed to escape, and circled the cage, but had to be wary of a high kick from Pacheco. Moments later, a right hand over the top was trailed by a left hook for Pacheco, who was continually testing Mokhnatkina’s defenses, not to mention chin. Mokhnatkina continued to backpedal, circle, and finally grabbed Pacheco’s leg off a kick, looking for a takedown. It wasn’t there; Mokhnatkina got the Brazilian up against the fence, but instead had to contend with a guillotine attempt.
Pacheco looked to have the choke in tight. But Mokhnatkina was able to survive, with Pacheco wrenching her opponent down. But Mokhnatkina rolled, right into a kneebar! A nasty one, that Pacheco just gutted her way through. Mokhnatkina continued to attack the kneebar, with Pacheco just refusing to tap! Somehow she gutted it out, pulled free, then launched a nasty amount of ground n’ pound. Now it was Mokhnatkina’s turn to survive, and somehow, she did, while Pacheco complained about Marina’s toe hooking her shorts — likely accidental, and not likely to have made much difference.
Early in the second, Mokhnatkina landed a takedown, only for Larissa Pacheco to quickly scramble to her feet. At range, Marina fired a spinning back first that sailed wide. Pacheco walked her opponent down, with the clear edge on the feet. But with just under two minutes to go, Marina Mokhnatkina landed a takedown off a well-timed level change, with plenty of time to work from inside Pacheco’s guard. Despite this, the ref quickly stood the pair up, deciding that he wasn’t seeing enough action on the ground.
Round three saw Pacheco connect early after another low-percentage spinning back fist attempt by Marina Mokhnatkina. Pacheco walked the Russian fighter down, as Mokhnatkina circled along the fence. But a number of right hands landed for Larissa Pacheco. And the damage was starting to show on Marina. When they went to the ground just past the midway mark, Pacheco fired some wild hammerfists. As she passed into mount, Pacheco ripped the body with hard shots. She then had 90 seconds to work form mount, landing ground n’ pound as Mokhnatkina covered up. The Russian once again survived, and Pacheco instead took the back, getting both hooks in.
Entering the championship rounds, it felt like Marina Mokhnatkina had proved a lot of doubters long, simply by surviving the first fifteen minutes. And just over a minute in, she landed a throw takedown— only to find herself in a Pacheco triangle. Mokhnatkina hauled Pacheco up, dangling her off the mat for a few seconds; eventually Pacheco would release the hold, and Mokhnatkina wound up hunting for a kneebar as they continued the grappling battle.
After a moment, Pacheco pulled free, and moved back to her feet with Mokhnatkina following. Pacheco was able to land her right hand again, and when Mokhnatkina got the fight down, Larissa sprawled, scrambled, and quickly got back up.
With the final round arriving, there was a strong likelihood that Mokhnatkina needed a finish. She grabbed a leg early, only for Pacheco to push her off. A bit later, a Pacheco high kick partially landed, but Mokhnatkina ate it, caught the leg, and got the fight down! That saw her working from guard, in a dominant position on top and in guard, but with time falling off the clock. Mokhnatkina got in a bit of ground n’ pound, but not nearly enough to threaten a finish. Instead, it was Larissa Pacheco riding out the clock en route to a second championship, in a second weight class — securing her name in the history books of the sport.