When the PFL signed Ray Cooper III as part of its inaugural welterweight tournament field, the acquisition hardly made a blip. At the time, Cooper had fought to some renown, having defeated the colorful journeyman Charles “Felony” Bennett, but then again, he’d only won two of his most recent four fights. He might have been a prospect, but one with questionable upside.
That all changed at PFL 3. On that July night, Cooper faced the durable and dangerous veteran Jake Shields. With Shields’ history as a former Strikeforce and EliteXC champion as well as former a UFC title contender, the veteran was a sizable favorite, topping -1400 on some sportsbooks — but the number was apparently a mirage. Through power and speed, Cooper battered Shields from the outside early. With Shields struggling to mount any offense, he attempted to lure Cooper to the mat by going to his back early and often. Cooper avoided the temptation and punished Shields with heavy shots until landing a smashing left hook about two minutes into the second round. The punch sent Shields falling face-first, and Cooper followed up with hammerfists, overhands, and straight rights until Shields turtled up and the referee stepped in to save him.
Suddenly, Ray Cooper III became a name to watch.
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