After it seemed like he would miss the 2023 PFL season due to injury, Ante Delija is back and looking to make a quick path toward defending his championship. Delija, a judo specialist and the protege of the legendary Mirko Cro Cop, enters this fight 23-5 in professional MMA, with 17 stoppages (13 in the first round). After losing to Bruno Cappelozza in the 2021 heavyweight title fight, Delija defeated Matheus Scheffel, Shelton Graves, Renan Ferreira and Scheffel (in a rematch) to claim the 2022 championship.
After amassing a 10-6 record across other MMA promotions, Maurice Greene made his PFL debut in 2022, losing to Denis Goltsov via unanimous decision. Greene, however, got his 2023 campaign off in a big way in April with a second-round finish of Marcelo Nunes. The striking specialist is a big finisher, with nine of his 11 career wins coming before the final bell.
With Delija fighting for the first time this season, he needs a win in the first half of the first round to have any shot at securing a heavyweight playoff spot. Meanwhile, Greene simply needs a victory to lock up a playoff spot.
Greene lands a low kick in the center of the SmartCage to get us going. Delija on the front foot, though Greene lands a couple of more low kicks. Small combination by Greene. Back kick to the body by Greene. One-two by Greene. Greene circling around the cage before working another couple of combinations. With just over three minutes left, Delija clinches Greene up against the fence.
Greene was able to reverse the position, but Delija looked for a guillotine attempt that ultimately went nowhere. The two trade knees against the cage in the clinch. With just over a minute left in the round, Greene is able to secure the takedown and gets to Delija’s back, looking for a choke. Delija, however, is able to get him off and bring the fight back to the feet. Delija tags Greene and backs him up. Delija landing a combination, and Greene level changes, trying to get the fight back to the ground. The two end the round in a clinch against the SmartCage.
Greene working the long jab as Delija starts the round with some pressure. Delija lands some right hands on the inside, briefly stunning and dropping Greene before he’s able to scramble back to his feet. Delija now has Greene pinned against the fence, and the two pummel and battle for position. With 2:40 left in the round, Greene is able to reverse position.
Greene landing some knees on the body and legs of Delija before Delija is able to get off the SmartCage. Delija landing a couple of hooks. Delija is able to crack and pressure Greene again, with Delija ending the chase by pressing Greene against the SmartCage again. Greene tries to hook and prevent the takedown, but the referee breaks them up and resets. Greene lands a jab, but Delija retaliates and continues to press forward. Delija lands a hard combination and pressures Greene until the bell.
Low kick and a left hand from Greeene to start the round, trying to keep Delija at bay. Small combination by Greene on his backfoot. Delija pressures Greene to the cage again, but Greene is able to circle out. The two engage in a clinch battle against the fence once again. With just over three minutes left, Delija tries for a level change and is ale to get the takedown. Delija goes into Greene’s guard and lands a few shots from up top, while Greene looks to try and hold Delija down.
Delija lands some more shots from up top, and Greene appears to be in trouble. Greene doesn’t seem to have much urgency in getting a stand-up. Delija lands a few more shots to Greene’s side. Delija continues to land shots, not getting out of his dominant position before the final bell. And it seems Jordan Heiderman will get a playoff spot via a Delija win!
Ante Delija def. Maurice Greene via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
PFL Heavyweight Final Playoff Seeds:
1. Denis Goltsov
2. Renan Ferreira
3. Marcelo Nunes
4. Jordan Heiderman