A veteran of 40 fights in MMA, Denis Goltsov hopes that the 2024 PFL season will be the one where he’ll finally be able to capture gold. Goltsov, a combat sambo specialist and world champion, earned the No. 1 seed at heavyweight during the 2022 PFL season but was unable to compete in the playoffs due to visa issues. Goltsov, who has 26 finishes entering tonight, including the fastest finish in PFL heavyweight history, scored first-round finishes of Cezar Ferreira, Yorgan de Castro and Jordan Heiderman in 2023 before falling to Renan Ferreira in the heavyweight title fight.


After picking up kickboxing at 18, Linton Vassell went on to make his MMA debut in 2007, racking up noteworthy wins and light heavyweight championships on the UK regional scene before signing with Bellator in 2014. He went on to win 7 of 11 in Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Division, though he came up short in both title shots he had against Emanuel Newton and Ryan Bader. In 2019, “The Swarm” moved up to heavyweight, losing to fellow PFL heavyweight competitor Valentin Moldavsky before his current five-fight win streak. Vassell was scheduled to challenge Bader for the Bellator heavyweight title at Bellator 300 before an injury forced him to withdraw.


Will Goltsov be successful as he starts to get back to the PFL heavyweight championship showdown, or will Vassell make a statement in his PFL debut?



Round 1


Vassell lands a leg kick. Left jab from Goltsov. Another low kick from Vassell. Vassell goes in and scores a double-leg takedown on Goltsov. Goltsov tries to sit up before throwing up his guard. Vassell manages to pass into half-guard. Goltsov tries to use his strength and the fence to improve his position.


Vassell lands some strikes and moves himself into side control. He briefly gets into full mount but Goltsov explodes and forces him back into half-guard. Vassell goes back into side control. Vassell looked to isolate an arm and he did so, getting Goltsov into a crucifix position. Goltsov, however, quickly, frees his arm. Vassell gets into high mount with just over 30 seconds to go. Goltsov gets a sweep and now he’s in top control, landing several shots. Goltsov goes for a guillotine attempt in the closing seconds of the round but couldn’t lock it in, and the round ends with Vassell on top.





Round 2


Low kick from Vassell. Left hand from Goltsov. Goltsov presses Vassell back against the fence, and now he gets a takedown on Vassell. Goltsov gets around the neck and looks for a choke, but Vassell is able to wrestle himself out and get back into top position. Goltsov sweeps and gets back on top, looking for another choke. Vassell gets an underhook, looking for another way out of Goltsov’s pressure. Goltsov lands several right hands to the head of Vassell, who looks a little fatigued at this point.


Vassell tries to advance, but he doesn’t have much working in his favor. Goltsov lands a few shots to the sides of Vassell’s head. Goltsov has a hold of Vassell, and he continues to land shots on the ground. Vassell is now seated in one of the barriers of the PFL SmartCage, Goltsov still on top of him. Goltsov continues to pound away, though nothing to guarantee a finish of the fight. Both men look gassed by the end of the round.



Round 3


Low kick from Vassell. A one-two and a knee from Goltsov. Goltsov pins Vassell against the fence. Goltsov scores a takedown. Goltsov lands several left hands to the side of Vassell’s head. Vassell seems to be out of gas as Goltsov smothers him on the bottom. Goltsov continued to land strikes. Vassell seems to be flattening on the ground. Goltsov is tempted to go for an arm-triangle choke, but he abandons that plan.


Goltsov lands more punches and Vassell isn’t doing much to improve his position. Goltsov can’t bring his punching to the next level, however, as his energy also appears to be draining. Vassell gets to his feet for maybe one second before Goltsov brings him back down. A few more punches from Goltsov, and the referee finally steps in!



Denis Goltsov scores a third-round finish, as his eyes are on the prize known as the 2024 PFL Heavyweight Championship!





Denis Goltsov defeats Linton Vassell by 3rd round TKO (3:11), earning 4 points in the PFL Heavyweight Division.