Linton Vassell Wins Trilogy with Valentin Moldavsky, Misses PFL Playoffs

Valentin Moldavsky and Linton Vassell, 2024 PFL 4
Valentin Moldavsky and Linton Vassell, 2024 PFL 4 weigh-in Credit: Dylan Napoleone/Cageside Press

The rubber match in the trilogy between heavyweights Valentin Moldavsky and Linton Vassell arrived at 2024 PFL 4 on Thursday, with Vassell in need of a quick win the make the league’s post-season.

The pair’s rivalry had begun back in Bellator, with Russia’s Moldavsky winning their first meeting, by decision. Vassell followed that up in March of 2023, knocking out the Team Fedor contender.

With the PFL scooping up Bellator last year, the trilogy was set to play out in the PFL SmartCage. And while Vassell needed a quick finish, after some back-and-forth, he wound up rocked off a check hook about midway through the opening round. Moldavsky then used his weight to bully Vassell to the mat, but could not keep him there, with “The Swarm” wall walking up.

Moldavsky, controlling an ankle and firing knees, stayed on the Brit. The grappling battle continued as they moved across the cage; with just under a minute on the clock, Vassell crumpled off a low blow, that while accidental, was a clearly low knee.

A clearly pained Vassell was able to continue, but the fight left the first round, securing Tim Johnson a title shot, care of a first-round finish earlier in the night. In the second, Moldavsky went after a takedown early, with Vassell defending but ultimately ending up seated along the fence. But the momentum shifted with about 90 seconds left when, back on the feet, Vassell dropped Moldavsky! Vassell got on top, in half guard, looking to land ground n’ pound while Moldavsky locked down his leg.

With Modavsky having recovered, they headed to round three, with Vassell throwing heavy leather, forcing the former Bellator interim champ backwards early. They clinched up, with Moldavsky walking Vassell to the fence looking for a key takedown. A throw backfired, however, with Moldavsky giving up position and nearly giving up his back. Vassell was high up the back however and nearly fell off over the top before catching himself. Just when it looked like Moldavsky might scramble up, Vassell managed to regain control. He spent some time on top at center, and for a good chunk of time out-wrestled the Russian. Finally, Moldavsky wall-walked up, with about a minute fifteen left in the round.

Valentin Moldavsky would land a takedown next, with roughly a minute on the clock. Bad timing for Vassell, but he got right back up, only to be taken down again just prior to the end of the fight.

Come the scores, the decision was as split as the trilogy itself. It was Linton Vassell claiming the win – but without a finish he misses the post-season.

Official Result: Linton Vassell def. Valentin Moldavsky by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)