Originally published at PFL 4 Report: Alex Martinez defeats Clay Collard by split decision
PFL 4 Report: Alex Martinez defeats Clay Collard by split decision, Light heavyweight playoff bracket finalized
By: Eric Marcotte
On Friday night, the PFL held the fourth card of their regular season from the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. This card consisted of fighters in the men’s lightweight and light heavyweight divisions, with this being the last opportunity for these fighters to qualify for their division’s respective brackets. The main event saw Clay Collard face Alexander Martinez, a bout in which the victor was practically guaranteed to qualify for the lightweight playoffs. The other two lightweight bouts on the main card saw Jeremy Stephens matched up against Myles Price, and last years lightweight champion, Raush Manfio, facing off against Olivier Aubin-Mercier. In the lone light heavyweight bout on the main card portion of this event, the 2021 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion, Antônio Carlos Júnior, looked to extend his unbeaten PFL record, this time facing Bruce Souto. The commentary team for this event consisted of Sean O’Connell, Kenny Florian, and Randy Couture.
To quickly recap the PFL’s “league” structure: The PFL implements a unique scoring system. A win earns you three points, and you have the opportunity to gain bonus points depending on the way in which you win the fight. If a fighter were to get a finish in the first round, they would earn a total of three bonus points (resulting in a grand total of six points from that win). A second-round finish would earn a total of five points, a third-round finish would result in a total of four points, and a decision win would simply award the standard three. A draw or a no-contest results in one point gained for each fighter. The four fighters from each division with the most points accumulated throughout the season will earn spots in their division’s playoff bracket, and the fighter that emerges victorious in each division’s bracket earns a million-dollar prize.
*Nate Jennerman def. Jake Childers by rear-naked choke at 2:00 of Round 2
*Josh Silveira def. Marthin Hamlet by TKO at 3:27 of Round 1
*Rob Wilkinson def. Viktor Pesta by TKO at 3:03 of Round 1
*Delan Monte def. Emiliano Sordi by TKO at 1:32 of Round 1
*Natan Schulte def. Marcin Held by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Omari Akhmedov def. Teodoras Aukstuolis by arm-triangle at 2:50 of Round 2
*Jeremy Stephens def. Myles Price by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Raush Manfio by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Antonio Carlos Jr. def. Bruce Souto by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Alexander Martinez def. Clay Collard by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
JEREMY STEPHENS (28-20, 1 NC, 156, 0 PTS) VS MYLES PRICE (11-8, 155.2, 0 PTS) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Both of these fighters were in need of a quick finish if they wanted to clinch a playoff spot. Stephens sprawled hard on a Price takedown attempt, allowing him to take top position early. The fighters soon returned to the feet, where Stephens began to walk Price down, looking to land his heavy right hand. He caught Price a few times, but the chin of Price held up well, and Stephens started to attack the body instead. Price connected with a right hand that seemed to stun Stephens slightly, however, if Stephens was hurt, he recovered quickly. 10-9 Stephens.
Stephens landed a number of kicks to the lead leg of Price early in round two. The fighters spent a considerable amount of time wrestling in the clinch against the cage here, resulting in somewhat of a stalemate. They exchanged heavy shots after they broke apart, however it did not take long for Price to shoot for another takedown, which Stephens defended successfully. Stephens landed one last strong calf kick before time expired in the round. 20-18 Stephens.
Stephens sprawled on another takedown attempt to begin the final round, once again taking top position. The fight quickly returned to the feet, where they began to wrestle against the cage. With three minutes remaining in the round, Price was finally successful in taking Stephens down, where he began to work from half guard. Price maintained this position for the remainder of the round, and the fight went the distance. 29-28 Stephens.
WINNER: Jeremy Stephens by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) (3 PTS)
Stephens was an enormous favorite going into this bout, however, the fight turned out to be far more competitive than the odds indicated. Stephens showcased strong takedown defense throughout the bout, but Price did a good job of keeping Stephens wrapped up against the cage, and when he finally got Stephens down in the final round, Price was able to maintain top position for the better part of three minutes. As competitive as the fight was, I thought Stephens did more than enough damage to take the first two rounds, and with this win, he picked up his first victory since February of 2018. While technically Stephens kept his playoff hopes alive with this win, he would go on to be mathematically eliminated later in the night.
RAUSH MANFIO (16-3, 155.8, 4 PTS) VS OLIVIER AUBIN-MERCIER (14-5, 155.8, 3 PTS) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Both fighters were very tentative throughout this round. Neither fighter came close to hitting the double-digit mark for strikes landed, and there were no takedowns nor control time to speak of to separate the fighters either. Aubin-Mercier landed a hard body kick towards the end of the round, and that honestly may have been enough to give him the edge on the scorecards. 10-9 Aubin-Mercier.
The fighters were slightly busier in the second round, but not by a significant amount. The broadcast’s strike count had Manfio at four strikes landed throughout the fight by the halfway point of round two. Aubin-Mercier was slightly busier, and that was really all he needed to do in order to take these rounds. 20-18 Aubin-Mercier.
The live odds had Aubin-Mercier as a -1400 favourite going into this final round, which soon increased to -5000. The fans in attendance were voicing their displeasure towards the pace of this fight, however that did not prompt Manfio nor Aubin-Mercier to increase their output. Once again, Aubin-Mercier just found a bit more success throughout these five minutes, and that was enough to earn him the round. 30-27 Aubin-Mercier.
WINNER: Olivier Aubin-Mercier by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) (3 PTS)
This was one of the least entertaining fights of the year, but it’s hard to fault Aubin-Mercier’s strategy given the result. Manfio was extremely inactive throughout the bout, and never really landed anything of significance either, resulting in what can only be described as a very poor performance from the 2021 PFL Lightweight Champion. Despite the loss, Manfio’s playoff hopes remained alive with four points total, as only a first or second-round finish from Stevie Ray against Anthony Pettis next week would remove him from contention. For Aubin-Mercier, six total points secured his spot in the lightweight playoff bracket, although his seed would not be finalized until the conclusion of the aforementioned Pettis/Ray bout.
ANTONIO CARLOS JR. (14-5, 2 NC, 205.8, 6 PTS) VS BRUCE SOUTO (15-4, 205.2, 0 PTS) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Souto landed a number of leg kicks throughout the opening minute. Souto needed a quick finish to secure a spot in the Light Heavyweight playoff bracket, but the finish did not come, and he was quickly eliminated from playoff contention. Carlos Jr. secured a takedown with roughly three minutes to work, however, Souto successfully worked his way back to the feet, where the fighters wrestled against the cage for a significant amount of time. 10-9 Carlos Jr.
Neither fighter was terribly active on the feet early in the second round, but it was not long before Carlos Jr. changed levels in an attempt to take Souto down. Souto successfully defended the initial attempt, but Carlos Jr. stuck with it, and eventually sat Souto down against the cage. Souto quickly escaped to his feet, but was unable to create separation, and spent the remainder of the round with his back to the cage. 20-18 Carlos Jr.
The fighters hugged to begin the final round. Once again, the vast majority of this round was spent wrestling in the clinch against the cage, with Carlos Jr. being the aggressor. They were eventually separated due to inactivity; however, Carlos Jr. quickly secured a takedown, ending the fight in top position. 30-27 Carlos Jr.
WINNER: Antonio Carlos Jr. by unanimous decision (30-27 all) (3 PTS)
I can’t say this fight was any more entertaining than the previous one. The near entirety of the fight was spent wrestling against the cage, with Carlos Jr. constantly in the advantageous position. Souto’s only opportunity to secure a spot in the light heavyweight playoff bracket was to finish Carlos Jr. early in the opening round, and after that point in the fight passed, much of the drama surrounding the result of the fight evaporated as well, especially given the rather one-sided fashion in which the fight played out. As a result of this bout, Carlos Jr. finished the 2022 PFL season with a total of nine points and will be the third seed in the light heavyweight playoff bracket. Carlos Jr. will face the second-seeded Omari Akhmedov in the opening round, and the first-seeded Rob Wilkinson will face Delan Monte, who officially qualified after Souto was unable to finish Carlos Jr. early in this bout.
CLAY COLLARD (21-9, 1 NC, 155.2, 3 PTS) VS ALEXANDER MARTINEZ (9-2, 1 NC, 155.8, 3 PTS) – LIGHTWEIGHT
The fighters exchanged leg kicks to begin the main event. Both Collard and Martinez found success on the feet early, and Martinez showcased some solid takedown defense by stopping Collard’s attempts to bring the fight to the ground. Collard began to attack the body, which prompted Martinez to start looking for takedown attempts of his own. It was Collard though, who ultimately found success in bringing the fight to the ground, although he could not keep Martinez down for long. Collard’s body shots were getting big reactions from Martinez, and he was working his jab to great effect as well. Martinez ended the round with a successful takedown. 10-9 Collard.
Collard continued to work his jab in the second round, while effectively attacking the lead leg and body of Martinez as well. A quick left hand from Collard knocked Martinez to the ground, and Collard followed him down as he attempted to finish the fight. Martinez defended himself well, and eventually took the back of Collard, where he locked in a rear-naked choke. Things were looking bad for Collard, but he fought the choke, and eventually managed to escape the submission. This was a wild round, and a very tough one to score. 20-18 Collard.
Collard landed a number of strong body shots throughout the opening minute of the third round, however, Martinez was able to take Collard back to the ground, where he was once again able to work his way to the back of Collard. This time Collard was able to escape, and with two minutes remaining in the round, this was still anyone’s fight. Martinez was not reacting well to Collard’s shots, constantly pulling guard after getting hit. Martinez shot for one last takedown, and while he got Collard to the ground, he was unable to do much with the position, and I thought Collard took this final round. 30-27 Collard.
WINNER: Alexander Martinez by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) (3 PTS)
I was quite surprised by the decision here. While the second round certainly could have been scored either way, I thought the first and third rounds were both rather clear for Collard. The only argument for scoring the third round in favor of Martinez would be based on control time, but that is not how the judging criteria are supposed to work. Regardless of the decision, this was a fun fight, and as a result, Martinez has qualified for the 2022 PFL lightweight playoffs, with six total points accumulated throughout the season. As it stands, Anthony Pettis, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and Martinez have secured their spots in the lightweight playoff bracket, and either Raush Manfio or Stevie Ray will take the final spot in the bracket, depending on the result of Ray’s bout against Pettis next week.