In our next bout, Russia’s Movlid Khaybulaev returns to the SmartCage for the first time since winning the 2021 PFL World Championship to take on 2022 PFL Semifinalist Ryoiji Kudo. Khaybulaev has never lost over 21 professional bouts and also owns the fastest finish in PFL history. Japan’s Kudo punched his ticket to last year’s Playoffs with a monstrous knockout of Alejandro Flores and will look to add “Killer” to his highlight reel tonight.
The bell rings and both fighters rush to the center of the SmartCage as Khaybulaev throws and misses with an overhand right. Kudo seems to be having trouble closing the distance early but he sprawls expertly as Khaybulaev shoots again.
Kudo briefly winds up on top but Khaybulaev is a force to be reckoned with on the ground, quickly reversing position and beginning to grind on Kudo. Kudo is undeterred however and manages to get back to his feet using the SmartCage. Khaybulaev stays on him though, landing a nice inside trip and then a nice slam to wind up back on tap just less than halfway through the round.
Kudo begins to build back his base but Khaybulaev is just all pressure, peeling Kudo off the fence and taking him down once again but he’ll need to do some damage eventually. Khaybulaev winds up in top full guard with about 90 seconds to go, taking the back as Kudo attempts to get back up.
Wisely, Kudo drops to his back to negate the choke chance but again Khaybulaev takes the back and starts raining down heavy shots and attacking the neck as Kudo is forced to turtle up and defend. As the 10 second clapper hits, Khaybulaev seems content to ride out the round on Kudo’s back.
Our second round begins and Kudo is going to need to make something happen here as he throws a flurry of punches punctuated with a high kick, but can’t land much. So far Kudo has stayed on his feet, landing a front kick and moving laterally to prevent Khaybulaev from shooting.
Kudo makes one mistake and that’s all it takes as he allows Khaybulaev to clinch and he takes advantage, taking the fight straight back down to the mat and grinding on Kudo who is attempting to use the fence to work back to his feet.
As per usual, Khaybulaev is using wrist control to prevent Kudo from building his base as Khaybulaev passes and takes Kudo’s back with about three minutes remaining in the round. Kudo attempts to explode and toss Khaybulaev off but can’t do it, getting back to his full guard as the referee calls for more action from Khaybulaev.
Khaybulaev obliges the referee, landing some ground and pound to the body and head as Kudo again explodes from his hips and briefly gets to his feet only to be dragged back down to the mat once more. Kudo attempts to shrimp to his hip and create some space but Khaybulaev is just smothering on top, not allowing Kudo to get back to his feet or create any offense as the round comes to an end.
The final round of the fight begins and once more Khaybulaev is controlling the center of the SmartCage. Kudo likely needs a finish at this point and there’s still one bonus point up for grabs in the standings with a finish. Kudo comes forward behind a lead hook and throws a kick to the body of Khaybulaev that is caught and used to once again bring the fight back to the mat.
Briefly, Kudo is able to return to his feet before being dumped to the mat once more as Khaybulaev begins looking to set up an arm triangle from top half guard. Khaybulaev throws some short ground and pound shots as Kudo tries to explode in towards Khaybulaev but is stuffed once more.
Khaybulaev takes the back once more as Kudo again pops up and is dragged straight back down, able to at least regain the full guard in the process. With two minutes remaining in the round, all of the onus is on Kudo to make something happen as Khaybulaev seems content to just ride out the position and decision victory.
Kudo is attempting to work back to his feet but just can’t make it happen as the referee once again calls for more action. Khaybulaev obliges and is doing just enough to not lose the dominant position without really doing a significant amount of damage. The 10 second clapper rings and Khaybulaev continues to work the body through the final bell.
Movlid Khaybulaev returns in style, sweeping the scorecards in his first PFL bout since winning a 2021 World Championship.
Movlid Khaybulaev def. Ryoji Kudo by Unanimous Decision (30-27 3x)