The Professional Fighters League’s annual championship event went down on Wednesday night in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and it was a huge night for women’s combat sports.
The card was topped by a 155-pound lightweight fight between unbeaten juggernaut Kayla Harrison (12-0) and a massive underdog in Taylor Guardado (3-2). The PFL lightweight title hung in the balance, as did the million-dollar prize the league awards the champion of each weight class at the end of each year.
As the pre-fight odds suggested, Harrison made it look easy, grounding and battering the outmatched Guardado en route to a second-round submission via armbar.
The fight marked the final obligation on Harrison’s latest PFL contract, making her arguably the hottest free agent in MMA today. She will undoubtedly field offers from other promotions like the UFC and Bellator, but could certainly be coaxed back to the PFL cage by the prospect of more million-dollar paydays.
“I have a lot to think about,” she said at the event’s post-fight press conference. “I have a family now. I still want to be the best in the world. I still want to continue to challenge myself. I feel like I can do that no matter where I go, but I got two mouths to feed and a family to take care of. We’ll see what happens.”
Congratulations Kayla Harrison!#PFLChampionship pic.twitter.com/cTORWGUllw— PFL (@PFLMMA) October 28, 2021
Congratulations Kayla Harrison!#PFLChampionship pic.twitter.com/cTORWGUllw
While Harrison’s latest domination was deserving of its headlining spot, it certainly wasn’t the only big-ticket women’s bout on the bill. Earlier on the main card, three-division boxing world champion Claressa Shields (11-0 boxing, 1-1 MMA) competed in her second MMA bout, taking on Mexico’s Abigail Montes (3-0) in a 155-pound scrap.
Shields had her moments in the fight, landing plenty of her Olympic-caliber punches and even competing her lone takedown attempt of the fight. Unfortunately for the boxing champ, Montes proved a little too much, too soon. The Mexican prospect completed two of four takedown attempts and controlled her foe against the cage for the vast majority of the fight—enough, in sum, to sway two of three cage-side judges and earn a split decision victory. The win will more than likely earn her a spot in the 2022 PFL season.
Abigail gets the takedown midway through the 3rd round!#PFLChampionship LIVE NOW🇺🇸 ESPN2 & ESPN🌍 https://t.co/WfOt9XBfzk pic.twitter.com/ZkGCHR8WxI— PFL (@PFLMMA) October 28, 2021
Abigail gets the takedown midway through the 3rd round!#PFLChampionship LIVE NOW🇺🇸 ESPN2 & ESPN🌍 https://t.co/WfOt9XBfzk pic.twitter.com/ZkGCHR8WxI
“I was always very confident in the work I put in and all that I did in my camp,” Montes said at the event’s post-fight press conference. “That’s why I looked very confident inside the cage.”
Shields, meanwhile, will have to return to the drawing board if she intends to continue her quest to become a two-sport world champion. Before she gets back to training at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of course, she’ll need to prepare for her December boxing match with Ema Kozin.
The first women’s bout of the night, also contested at 155 pounds, pitted Minnesota’s Kaitlin Young against Canada’s Julia Budd. Young, a striking specialist, gave Budd some interesting looks on the feet, particularly in the first round, but Budd was able to ply her wrestling to secure multiple takedowns en route to a well-deserved unanimous decision victory.
Successful Debut for Julia Budd! Congratulations Julia!#PFLChampionship LIVE NOW🇺🇸 ESPN+🌍 https://t.co/WfOt9XBfzk pic.twitter.com/9w0aOaz9TX— PFL (@PFLMMA) October 27, 2021
Successful Debut for Julia Budd! Congratulations Julia!#PFLChampionship LIVE NOW🇺🇸 ESPN+🌍 https://t.co/WfOt9XBfzk pic.twitter.com/9w0aOaz9TX
The win marks a successful PFL debut for Budd, who recently ended a lengthy stint with Bellator, one that included an impressive reign as the promotion’s featherweight champion. With Wednesday’s victory, she can look forward to a spot in the 2022 PFL season and a potential fight with Harrison. Budd is easily the stiffest challenge for Harrison in the PFL at present.
Young may also be invited to compete in the 2022 PFL season, but after going 1-2 in the PFL cage in 2021, it’s also possible she’ll lose her spot on the roster.