There was plenty of action across MMA over the weekend with PFL Regular Season: Heavyweights and Women’s Featherweights and Bellator 297 in Chicago on Friday night and UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas on Saturday.

In Friday’s action, defending champions Ante Delija and Larissa Pacheco got wins, but only one (Pacheco) was able to seal a spot in this year’s PFL playoffs. At the same time, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire fell short of making MMA history against reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis. And Yoel Romero, who tried to find the fountain of youth with a big win over Vadim Nemkov, was unable to win the Bellator light heavyweight title.

Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi, Jeff Wagenheim and Andres Waters break down the most interesting and best moments from a dramatic Friday and Saturday in MMA action.

Raimondi: Pettis steals the show while derailing history

Sergio Pettis never feels like the focal point. It’s something he’s probably dealt with throughout his life. Them’s the breaks of being the younger brother of a flashy former UFC lightweight champion (Anthony) who once appeared on the cover of a Wheaties box.

Friday was another example of Pettis being a secondary thought. He was the champion defending his Bellator bantamweight title against Patricio “Pitbull” at Bellator 297 in Chicago — and everyone was talking about “Pitbull.” Freire was moving down in weight to win a third divisional title, something no fighter in major MMA history has ever done. Pettis was a footnote.

On top of that, Pettis vs. “Pitbull” wasn’t even the main event on the card. Nemkov’s light heavyweight title defense against Romero, the ageless, idiosyncratic UFC veteran, got top billing.

Despite all of that, do you know who was the star of the event? Sergio Pettis. While everyone was fixated on “Pitbull” — fairly, since he was chasing something unprecedented — Pettis went out and had the best performance of his career, a poised, sublime outing where he kept “Pitbull” at bay, beat him to the punch and proved he’s an elite talent at 135 pounds.

The under-the-radar story is that Pettis has not fought since December 2021 due to knee surgery. He had to pull out of the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix because of the injury. Over the last year-plus, it felt like the division had moved on without him. Patchy Mix won the tournament in April over Raufeon Stots and took home the Bellator interim bantamweight title. Mix has become the new “it” name in the division.

What could Pettis do to gain some attention back? How about a comprehensive victory over “Pitbull,” the best fighter in Bellator history? Pettis and Mix faced off after the bout in the cage, as that future fight should be incredibly high-level.

In his postfight interview, Pettis said he’s beaten all of Bellator’s poster boys, from Juan Archuleta to Kyoji Horiguchi and now “Pitbull.” But before he has to worry about Mix, it’s time to give Pettis his flowers as one of the best bantamweight fighters in the world. His face might not be adorned on a Wheaties box any time soon like his older brother Anthony, but baby brother has moved out of the shadow of his brother and others and finally come into his own with a career-defining win.

Wagenheim: PFL finding new blood at heavyweight



Denis Goltsov needs just 18 SECONDS to finish Yorgan De Castro

Denis Goltsov needs just 18 SECONDS to finish Yorgan De Castro

The PFL lost a defending heavyweight champion from its playoff picture but gained a couple of powerful contenders for this year’s $1 million prize.

Ante Delija won Friday’s main event against Maurice Greene by unanimous decision, but it wasn’t good enough to earn him a playoff spot. The problem for Delija is that he had pulled out of his April season opener due to injury, so this was his only opportunity to amass points. He needed to finish within the first half of Round 1, and it didn’t happen for him.

Delija will be missed, but not as much as he would have if not for the performances of a couple of other big guys earlier in the night. You might have missed them if you blinked.

First, Denis Goltsov knocked out Yorgan De Castro in a PFL heavyweight-record 18 seconds, using a single straight right hand to get the job done. Shortly after, Renan Ferreira KO’d Matheus Scheffel in 50 seconds with a lightning flurry against the cage.

Those were explosively impressive performances by the pair of PFL stalwarts. For Goltsov, this is the third straight year he has earned a spot in the playoffs; he lost a semifinal to Delija in 2022 but could not compete in last year’s semis because of a problem with his visa. Ferreira was bounced from last season’s playoffs by Delija; his big PFL moment came the year before, when he TKO’d former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, although the result was changed to a no contest after it was ruled that Ferreira may have earlier tapped out.

Now Goltsov and Ferreira have momentum heading into the playoffs, seeded Nos. 1 and 2. There’ll be no Delija standing in their way. No Bruno Cappelozza, either, as the 2021 champ was suspended after testing positive for a banned substance. When the heavyweights begin their playoffs on June 16 in New York, Goltsov will face fourth-seeded Jordan Heiderman and Ferreira will fight No. 3 seed Marcelo Nunes. Both Heiderman and Nunes scored first-round knockouts, too, on Friday.

So expect fireworks in the heavyweight playoffs.

Waters: Novenyi Jr. extends unbeaten streak

Bellator’s Norbert Novenyi Jr. continues to prove he could have a bright future ahead of him. On Friday night, Novenyi needed only 46 seconds to secure the fifth win with the promotion and sixth career win with a knockout over Kamil Oniszczuk. The win was also Novenyi’s third consecutive first-round finish.