2021 PFL World Champion Raush Manfio returns to the SmartCage following his first loss in the PFL to eventual World Champion Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Across from Manfio stands two time PFL Semi-Finalist Alexander Martinez who also enters this bout off a loss to OAM. Manfio missed the Playoffs last year and says he will be a completely different fighter following offseason surgery, while Martinez looks to capture an elusive PFL World Championship this year in his third season with the promotion.
Manfio and Martinez touch gloves and we’re off as Manfio takes the center of the SmartCage and gets Martinez on his back foot early. Volume was a problem for Manfio last season so we’ll see if he’s more willing to engage early as neither fighter has thrown a strike about a minute in.
Manfio breaks the stalemate with a heavy kick to the body that Martinez catches and uses to clinch. Manfio is staying busy with some nice knees to the body in the clinch here but Martinez is staying heavy on him until Manfio is able to break with a big right hand over the top.
Again, Manfio lands a big straight right as they reset and Martinez lands a side kick to the body. Manfio lands another heavy straight right and is throwing big power into everything early though he would still stand to benefit from more volume.
Martinez misses with a big high kick and Manfio is keeping the pressure on, walking Martinez down and firing his right hand like a piston every time there’s an opening. Manfio lands a nice counter left hook but he’s having trouble cutting off the cage before landing a nice jab hook combo that forces Martinez to retreat.
There is a clear disparity in power here with Manfio landing much more impactful strikes as Martinez lands some softer side kicks. Manfio lands another right hand with a minute left in the round and Martinez answers with a hook kick that just misses. Manfio lands another right hook and has not relented on the pressure at all but Martinez is doing a good job with his lateral movement and not letting Manfio just tee off.
Round two begins with more of the same as Manfio is coming forward with pressure and Martinez is skirting the outside of the SmartCage trying to stay out of danger. Manfio lands that overhand right once again and Martinez doesn’t seem to have much of an offensive game plan here as Manfio tags him with a shovel hook and a straight right.
Martinez throws a kick to the body that Manfio catches and uses to sweep Martinez to the ground and into full guard. Martinez is staying active off his back but Manfio is starting to posture up and land some big strikes here. Martinez does a good job of framing with his shin and creating enough space to get back to his feet where he again gets on the carousel.
Manfio briefly gets a hold of Martinez and lands a nice knee in the clinch and a right hand on the break before catching the same kick from Martinez and taking him down once again. Martinez gives up his back in the struggle but tries to roll back to guard, winding up in a bad neck crank for a moment before fighting off the hands.
Manfio is just riding Martinez and doing damage here as Martinez is able to explode back to his feet with just over a minute remaining in the round. Martinez’s movement seems to be slowing a little now as Manfio is landing a bit more.
Martinez is having success kicking the lead leg of Manfio which is starting to show some damage but that’s about it as Manfio is controlling most aspects of this fight and doing much more damage overall. Manfio catches a kick and secures a third takedown as the round ends.
We begin our final round with more of the same as Martinez cannot seem to stifle the pressure of Manfio and is forced to retreat constantly, eating a nice knee for his troubles. Martinez goes back to attacking the lead leg but Manfio is teeing off anytime Martinez hangs out in the pocket at this point.
Manfio is doing a good job of throwing punches in bunches and not singular strikes as he changes levels and shoots a takedown. Martinez is able to defend and reverse position along the SmartCage before Manfio reverses position and breaks.
Martinez lands another heavy leg kick but Manfio continues marching forward, landing a nice switch kick to the body as he checks a low kick from Martinez. Martinez is going to need to sell out here soon as we hit the halfway point in the final round and Manfio hits a nice inside trip, briefly securing a takedown before returning to his feet.
Martinez goes back to the low kick and now Manfio returns fire with the straight right, seemingly timing it up at this point. The referee calls for action and right on cue Manfio lands a bomb of a right hand before clinching and throwing some short knees.
Manfio looks for an outside trip but Martinez defends as we hit one minute remaining in the fight. Martinez is still just moving laterally and really needs to show some urgency to keep his Playoff hopes alive as Manfio partially lands a nice knee. Martinez is turning up the volume now but he’s not landing anything overly significant as Martinez lands a nice right hand at the bell.
Raush Manfio gets back in the win column to begin his 2023 PFL Regular Season with three points.
Raush Manfio earns the W and 3 Points in the Lightweight standings!#PFLRegularSeason LIVE NOW— PFL (@PFLMMA) April 15, 2023
🇺🇸 ESPN & ESPN+
🌎 https://t.co/jPNvomD5xg pic.twitter.com/13LbwLBYn7
Raush Manfio def. Alexander Martinez by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)