Frans Mlambo is a veteran talent who has competed across various promotions all around the world. Mlambo, who trains at SBG Ireland and is a training partner of “The Notorious” Conor McGregor, enters this fight on a six-fight win streak. This streak has included winning a one-night bantamweight tournament in December 2021 and a split decision win over Rachid Haz at the PFL Europe card in July.
A striking specialist, Mokhtar Benkaci is also a veteran of the fight game, entering tonight with 20 wins in his 30 fights, including 16 victories by way of a stoppage. Benkaci made his PFL debut in a Showcase bout during the 2022 PFL Playoffs, but an accidental eye poke brought his fight with Francesco Nuzzi to a no-contest. Benkaci competed in July, dropping a unanimous decision to Khurshed Kakhorov, but gets into tonight’s semifinals as a short-notice replacement for Nuzzi.
Who will advance to the bantamweight championship fight?
Mlambo with a spinning back kick to start. Benkaci narrowly misses a body kick, but it is returned by Mlambo. Low kick by Mlambo. Benkaci misses a quick snap jab. Mlambo misses a high spinning back kick. Mlambo lands a right hand that troubles Benkaci. Mlambo lands a head kick, but Benkaci stays on his feet. Side kick to the body by Mlambo. Benkaci grabs a kick from Mlambo and presses him against the SmartCage. Benkaci has Mlambo in the clinch, but Mlambo continues to land.
Benkaci lets go, and Mlambo lands a combination. The two both land in an exchange. Mlambo misses another spinning kick, but he does land to the body. Benkaci also looking to land body kicks. Benkaci looks for another combination. Mlambo lands a low kick. Benkaci lands to the body. Benkaci lands a right hand and eats one from Mlambo, as Benkaci is on the front foot here. Benkaci with another combination. Left to the body by Benkaci, who is now the pressuring fighter. Both land combinations before the horn.
Front kick by Mlambo. Spinning kick by Mlambo. Benkaci with a low kick to Mlambo’s lead leg. One-two by Mlambo, but Benkaci just gets out of the way. Benkaci lands another low kick. Mlambo misses an overhand right. Benkaci avoids another right hand. Left hand by Benkaci. Combination from Benkaci. A few right hands to the body delivered by Mlambo. One-two from Mlambo. Mlambo misses a couple of powerful hooks.
The two trading some powerful shots near the fence. Mlambo sweeps Benkaci’s legs from under him, though Benkaci gets right back up. Spinning kick to the body by Mlambo. Mlambo now focusing back on the body. Low kick by Mlambo. Left hand by Mlambo. The two trading and missing. Mlambo taunts Benkaci, who locks Mlambo in a Thai clinch again. Body shots by Mlambo before Benkaci breaks off the clinch. Strong left hand by Benkaci. Low kick by Benkaci.
Showing off respect from both men as the third round begins. The two going back and forth with their pacing. Low kick from Benkaci. One-two from Mlambo. Benkaci with a combination. Low kick from Benkaci. Mlambo with a couple of left hands to the body. Right hand lands on Mlambo. Mlambo slumps down and Benkaci goes to start some ground-and-pound, but time is called for what appears to be an eye poke. Mlambo is in pain, holding the eye.
After the time-out, the fight resumes. Low kick from Benkaci. The two trading wildly, and Benkaci appeared to land on Mlambo and forced him into retreat. Left hook from Benkaci. Mlambo misses a body shot. Benkaci clips Mlambo with a left hook. Left hand to the body by Mlambo. Mlambo lands a left as the two exchange by the fence. Left hand by Benkaci, who avoids Mlambo’s counters. Benkaci presses Mlambo against the fence and lands a knee to the legs. The two break off with about 20 seconds left. Left hand to the body by Mlambo. Low kick by Mlambo. The two traded to the horn.
Frans Mlambo defeats Mokhtar Benkaci by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) in the Bantamweight Semifinals, earning a spot at the PFL Europe Championship in Dublin on December 8th.