ARLINGTON, Texas — Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald made short work of American Brett (Fudoshin) Cooper on Friday, submitting the American veteran in the first round at PFL 3.
The six-foot MacDonald, a former Bellator champion and UFC contender, had a five-inch reach advantage and was a 5-1 favourite. He had predicted a first-round finish.
The Montreal-based fighter wasted little time landing a single-leg takedown, moving into side control and then mount position with more than three minutes remaining in the round.
MacDonald (23-8-1) fired punches from above as Cooper attempted to cover up. Cooper (28-16-0) then gave up his back and MacDonald locked in a rear-naked choke that forced a tap at two minutes 23 seconds.
MacDonald called it a "pretty flawless victory."
"I did what I came here to do. I want to go out there, dominate and show my potential," he added.
Unlike other MMA promotions, the Professional Fighters League features a regular season, playoffs and championship. The four fighters in each division who earn the most regular-season points advance to the playoffs with the two winners meeting for the PFL title and a US$1-million payday.
Friday's PFL 3 main event at eSports Stadium in Arlington, Texas, saw American Kayla Harrison, a two-time Olympic champion judoka, open her campaign for a third straight PFL lightweight title against Russia's Marina Mokhnatkina.
Hawaii's Ray Cooper III, who won the welterweight title last year, faced Brazil's Carlos Leal Miranda in the co-main event.
The 2022 PFL season began with cards April 20 and 28. The regular season continues with shows June 17, June 24, and July 1.
MacDonald earned three points for the win and another three for the first-round finish.
Earlier on the card, New Zealand lightweight Genah (Fabioso) Fabian (5-2-0) won a unanimous 29-28 decision over Canadian Julia (The Jewel) Budd (16-4-0).
But because Fabian missed weight — she tipped the scales at 160.8 pounds Thursday, 4.8 over the non-title lightweight limit — she was docked a point and the three points she would have collected for the win went to Budd, a former Bellator title-holder who weighed in at 154.5 pounds.
Barring injury, Budd and MacDonald will each have one more regular-season fight in advance of the playoffs in August. The championship card will be held on a yet-to-be announced date in the fall.
Budd's only previous losses were to Amanda Nunes, (Rowdy) Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg, considered three of the sport's finest women's fighters.
MacDonald joined the PFL in December 2019 but had to wait until last year to make his debut after the 2020 season was wiped out by the pandemic.
He opened 2021 with a first-round submission win over Curt (Curtious) Millender but then suffered a controversial split-decision loss to Brazil's Gleison Tibau — mmajunkie.com called it the robbery of the year — and unanimous decision loss to Ray Cooper III in the welterweight semifinals last August.
Like Brett Cooper, MacDonald had his first pro fight as a teenager in 2005 and has a wealth of experience. The Montreal-based fighter went 9-4-0 in the UFC with a memorable, bloody loss to welterweight champion (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 in 2015.
In 2017, MacDonald switched to Bellator where he went 3-2-1 and won and lost the 170-pound title.
Brett Cooper has fought in Bellator and a slew of other promotions.
MacDonald took three months off after the Ray Cooper loss before returning to training. He divided his preparations between Tristar, his longtime gym base in Montreal, and Austin, Texas, where he trained alongside former UFC fighter Tim Kennedy, a member of the U.S. army special forces, and renowned Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach John Danaher.
After a cagey opening, Budd caught Fabian's leg on an attempted kick and forced her to the fence where she looked to take the Kiwi down. Fabian resisted but eventually was taken down with a trip with two minutes left in the round. Budd got into half-guard and briefly trapped Fabian's arm under her leg. But Fabian fought her way back up.
Fabian began to score with strikes in the second round and fought off a late Budd takedown attempt.
The two clinched at the fence early in the third, exchanging knees, with Budd looking for another takedown. Fabian initiated the clinch but Budd reversed position and looked for a takedown.
Fabian fought off the takedown attempt and went on the attack, with the fight going to the ground with Budd on the bottom.
Fabian outstruck the 38-year-old from Port Moody, B.C., 57-52 with both fighters scoring a takedown.
Budd signed with PFL last September and got a taste of the promotion in October when she won a decision over Kaitlin (The Striking) Viking in October.
The 32-year-old Fabian improved to 4-2-0 in the PFL, returning to the win column after being stopped by Harrison in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
Fabian was a star sprinter and triple-jumper as a teenager, before switching to rowing. She fell in love with combat sports on a trip to Thailand, eventually transitioning to MMA from after winning a world kickboxing title.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2022