Elvin Espinoza has won all eight of his professional fights thus far since turning pro in 2018 after a successful run on the amateur circuit. A freestyle fighter, Espinoza enters this fight 3-0 in the PFL. Espinoza submitted Hopeton Stewart in a showcase bout during the 2021 Playoffs, scored a decision over Corey Jackson in a 2023 Challenger Series qualifier during last year’s playoffs, and submitted Damir Ferhatbegovic during his Challenger Series appearance — which won him a PFL contract.
Keoni Diggs, who is nearing a decade of professional competition in MMA, won his first nine fights before suffering back-to-back split decision losses against Daniel Weichel and Bobby King. Diggs rebounded in his most recent fight in October, when he scored a unanimous decision over Ricardo Seixas. Seven of Diggs’ 10 wins thus far have come via a finish.
Both highly talented lightweights get a chance to impress here with this showcase bout.
Espinoza clinches up immediately, dragging Diggs over to the fence. Espinoza gets Diggs down, but Diggs gets his way back to the feet very quickly. Espinoza continues to press Diggs into the SmartCage. Espinoza tries for another trip, but Diggs blocks it. Espinoza gets his hips underneath with a body lock and throws Diggs for another takedown. Diggs gets up once more, but Espinoza still has a lock on him.
Diggs manages to reverse position after fighting off another takedown attempt by Espinoza. Diggs is behind Espinoza and lands a knee on Espinoza’s leg, but Espinoza judo throws Diggs! Espinoza lands on top and continuously lands shots upstairs on Diggs. Espinoza lands some more right hands from top. Espinoza gets to Diggs’ back and looks for a choke in the closing seconds of the round. Diggs fights it off and turns himself into the top position at the bell.
Espinoza lands some straights, though Diggs lands a right hand of his own, Diggs catches Espinoza inside with a right and a left. Espinoza throws a couple of kicks. Diggs throws a low kick but Espinoza rushes him with a combination. Diggs clinches up as they’re against the fence. Diggs has Espinoza pinned against the fence but can’t get the takedown. The two separate and return to the center. Espinoza catches Diggs with a right hand. Espinoza level changes and gets Diggs against the PFL SmartCage looking for another takedown. Espinoza lands a knee. The two separate again and Espinoza misses a knee.
Diggs lands a left hand coming in. Front kick by Espinoza. Espinoza presses and gets Diggs’ back to the fence again. Another clinch battle as Espinoza looks to drag Diggs back to the fence, but Diggs reverses and it’s Espinoza who is pinned up. Espinoza reverses position and lands a couple of knees to the legs before getting a takedown with just over a minute left in the round. Espinoza looks to get into high mount, but Diggs transitions them into half guard. Diggs gets back to his feet in the round’s closing seconds, but Espinoza still has him against the SmartCage.
Body kick and a left hand from Diggs. Espinoza level changes once more as another takedown struggle ensues. Diggs gets the double underhooks and reverses, getting Espinoza against the fence. Espinoza defends against Diggs’ takedown attempt. Diggs blocks another attempt at a throw from Espinoza. Espinoza pummels and now Diggs is the one whose back is against the PFL SmartCage.
The two separate with just over two-and-a-half minutes left in the round. The two trading strikes, with Diggs — the boxing expert — getting the better of it. Espinoza presses Diggs against the fence once again. Diggs seems to get his back off and is nearly free but Espinoza pummels. Diggs is able to reverse position and he briefly gets a takedown on Espinoza. Diggs has Espinoza against the SmartCage, but Espinoza reverses yet again. Espinoza gets a body lock and takes Diggs down to his back with about 50 seconds left. Espinoza gets to Diggs’ back as he looks for a late choke. Diggs tries to shake Espinoza off and is able to do so. The two grapple against the cage once more in the fight’s closing seconds.
Elvin Espinoza def. Keoni Diggs via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)