In the end, it was Martinez who kept his dreams of winning the $1 million grand prize alive.
Martinez (10-2) eked out a split decision over Collard (21-10) on Friday night to win the lightweight main event of PFL 4, which took place at Atlanta’s Overtime Elite Arena. The decision was not without controversy, however, as Collard appeared to edge Martinez on damage in the third and deciding round, while Martinez edged Collard on control time.
The bout itself was fought at a frenetic pace, with Collard seizing momentum early off a consistent jab, relentless pressure, and an assault of digging shots to the body. Collard carried that momentum into Round 2, dropping Martinez to the mat with a picture-perfect left hand that wound up being the most damaging strike of the fight. However, Martinez swung the action back into his favor by snatching Collard’s back in an ensuing scramble and locking up a rear-naked choke that almost had Collard dead to rights.
Amazingly, Collard managed to gut out an escape, setting up a winner-take-all scenario as the lightweights headed into the final round.
Collard continued to find a consistent home with his body work and combination striking in Round 3, while Martinez resorted to takedowns and top control with little offense to show for it. The strategy by the Paraguay native worked though, as Martinez moved his record in the 2022 PFL season to 2-0 and advanced into his first PFL playoff bracket.
In the co-headliner, defending PFL light heavyweight champion Antonio Carlos Junior continued his hunt for a second $1 million prize by clinching a spot in the PFL playoffs with a workmanlike unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Bruce Souto.
Carlos Junior (15-5) scored takedowns in all three rounds and utilized a copious amount of clinching against the cage to claim the upper hand and outpoint Souto (15-5) in a fight that sorely lacked in action moments. “Shoeface” finally found his best offense in the bout’s closing seconds when he rained down a series of left hands from top position. The performance was ultimately enough to preserve his unbeaten PFL run and advance his record to 4-0 (with one no contest) since leaving the UFC in early 2021.
Carlos Junior is now slated to face fellow UFC veteran Omari Akhmedov in the semifinal round of the PFL light heavyweight playoff bracket.
In another listless fight that drew boos from the Atlanta crowd, Aubin-Mercier (15-5) swept the scorecards to capture a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) over the reigning PFL lightweight champion. Neither man totaled even 30 landed strikes over the 15-minute contest, however Aubin-Mercier simply outworked his foe, leading the dance with takedown attempts and a semi-active kicking game, while Manfio’s offense was largely absent.
“It was a pretty bad fight,” Aubin-Mercier acknowledged with a laugh as the boos rained down upon him, “but gangsters do whatever they want, so I don’t care.”
Pettis is already locked into a playoff spot, however Ray could vault over Manfio with a first- or second-round finish of the former UFC champion.
In the night’s main-card opener, Jeremy Stephens squeaked out his first win under the PFL umbrella, though it wasn’t enough to keep his $1 million dreams alive. The 34-fight UFC veteran took a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) over Irish lightweight Myles Price, but failed to qualify for the PFL playoffs after losing a decision to Collard in his April debut.
Despite having resorted to shaving his head and beard to make weight, a freshly bald Stephens (29-20) started strong on Friday, hunting Price (11-9) around the cage with heavy punches and a parade of calf kicks to claim the opening round. But Price began to turn the tide in Round 2, mixing in takedown attempts and even cracking Stephens with a hard two-punch combination. The second round was ultimately the swing round, because the third belonged solely to Price, who spent much of it controlling Stephens from top position.
Regardless, the performance snapped a seven-fight winless streak for Stephens and marked his first victory since a 2018 knockout of UFC featherweight Josh Emmett.
- Alexander Martinez def. Clay Collard via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Antonio Carlos Junior def. Bruce Souto via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Raush Manfio via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Jeremy Stephens def. Myles Price via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Omari Akhmedov def. Teodoras Aukstuolis via technical submission (arm-triangle choke) at 2:50 of Round 2
- Natan Schulte def. Marcin Held via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
- Delan Monte def. Emiliano Sordi via TKO (punches) at 1:32 of Round 1
- Rob Wilkinson def. Viktor Pesta via TKO (punches) at 3:03 of Round 1
- Josh Silveira def. Marthin Hamlet via TKO (knee and punches) at 3:27 of Round 1
- Nate Jennerman def. Jake Childers via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:00 of Round 2