The winningest woman on the PFL roster and reigning Lightweight queen Larissa Pacheco makes her return to the SmartCage tonight against former four-time Bellator champion Julia Budd. Pacheco has finished five of her last six opponents in the first round, with the sole outlier being a decision victory over two-time PFL World Champion Kayla Harrison at last year’s PFL World Championship. Notably, Budd changed her camp heading into this Regular Season. Will Pacheco be able to become the first two division PFL World Champion? Her journey to a repeat starts now.
The bell rings and our main event is underway. Pacheco is on the attack early, stalking Budd and landing some big right hands early. Budd returns fire with a right but there seems to be a big disparity in the power between these two women with Pacheco just landing much heavier shots.
Pacheco lands a hard step in 1-2 and doubles up on it and she seems to have Budd flustered here early as she’s landing hard 90 seconds in. Budd lands a 1-2 of her own after some cat and mouse.
The pressure from Pacheco keeps coming but this time Budd shoots the takedown off the 1-2 and gets Pacheco to the mat. Pacheco briefly threatens a triangle choke but Budd slams her way free, getting out of danger and staying heavy on top as Pacheco scoots her way to the fence before attempting an armbar.
Budd stacks the guard as Pacheco looks for the arm bar once again and they play position. As the 10 second clapper hits, Pacheco throws up a tight triangle choke but she won’t have time to finish it as Budd may have been saved by the bell there.
We begin our second round and one would have to think Budd will be looking to take the fight back to the mat. Pacheco is plodding forward and throwing heat but isn’t landing flush as Budd lands a beautiful 1-2 directly on the chin that causes Pacheco to clinch.
Budd secures the collar tie but isn’t able to do much with it as they break and Pacheco is starting to look a bit fatigued, perhaps a result of the more significant weight cut. Budd looks much quicker now, stringing together a nice combination and then an outside leg kick but Pacheco answers the call, unleashing a big flurry of punches on Budd.
However Budd is undeterred, landing a heavy right hand as the fighters trade in the pocket and Budd now seems to be landing the better strikes. One gets the sense Pacheco still possesses the power to end the fight at any time as Budd shoots and Pacheco beautifully counters and rolls through to land in top half guard with a minute to work.
Pacheco may be able to steal the round with some damage here as she looks to attack an arm triangle and throws some short strikes to the body of Budd. With 10 seconds remaining Pacheco cocks back a big left hand and lands it, putting a nice stamp on the round for the judges.
Our final round is underway and the reigning champ may be in need of a finish here as Pacheco lands a pair of nice low kicks. Budd lands a nice knee on her way out of the pocket and Pacheco returns fire with a nice left hook that appears to wobble Budd.
Budd gets touched by a big Pacheco punch once again and we may have another big momentum swing in this fight as Pacheco clinches and attempts to drag Budd to the mat. Budd is defending well, grounding herself with a hand to prevent Pacheco from throwing knees as Pacheco manages to grapevine the leg and get Budd to the mat with back control.
Pacheco now has 2:45 to work with control of Budd’s back and both hooks in but Budd is looking to sneak out the back door as Pacheco attacks the arm bar. Budd defends perfectly, stepping over Pacheco straight into top position in Pacheco’s guard but Pacheco stays busy off her back, throwing hammer fists and framing with her shin until she’s able to sweep Budd to her back and pass to top half guard once again.
With a minute remaining Pacheco is attacking the arm triangle but it’ll be tough to finish it along the SmartCage. Pacheco now looks to posture up and do some damage, landing mostly to the body of Budd but throwing heavy shots nonetheless.
The fighters will throw until the final second with Budd throwing off her back and Pacheco raining down heavy body shots. Time to head to the judges.
Larissa Pacheco continues her winning ways and takes her first step towards becoming the first two division PFL World Champion
Larissa Pacheco def. Julia Budd by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)