Two veterans of the PFL heavyweight division have reached the world championship fight for the first time, and now one of them will get to walk out of the SmartCage with the belt and $1 million in tonight’s co-main event.
Denis Goltsov has always come so close but fell short of reaching the finals. He’s qualified for the semifinals four times, and he was supposed to be the No. 1 seed last year before visa issues knocked him out of the playoffs. A former Combat Sambo World Champion who competes in his 40th professional MMA fight tonight, Goltsov earned the No. 1 seed this year through first-round knockouts of Cezar Ferreira and Yorgan De Castro. In the semifinals, Goltsov scored a first-round submission of Jordan Heiderman to advance to the heavyweight world title fight.
The tallest fighter in the PFL at 6’8”, Renan Ferreira reached the finals after losing in the semifinals last year to eventual 2022 PFL Heavyweight World Champion Ante Delija. Ferreira, who is a specialist in jiu-jitsu and boxing, has scored finishes in five of his six PFL fights thus far. Ferreira made it to this year’s title fight after a no-contest against Rizvan Kuniev and a first-round knockout of Matheus Scheffel in the regular season, as well as a first-round knockout against Maurice Greene in the semifinals.
Which heavyweight will complete their mission, win the $1 million and be declared the 2023 PFL Heavyweight World Champion?
The two touch gloves in the center of the SmartCage. Ferreira with a low kick. Goltsov with a low kick. Ferreira with another low kick. Both men only throwing one shot at a time so far. Ferreira tries to come forward, but Goltsov gets out of the way. Goltsov goes in to attack, pressing Ferreira against the fence. Goltsov gets a trip and gets on top in half-guard, trying to pass into the mount. Goltsov attacks the left arm of Ferreira, looking for a kimura. Goltsov tries to crank the arm, but it’s hard to do while he’s in half-guard.
Goltsov lands a few shots from up top. Goltsov looks for an Ezekiel choke but can’t get it going. Ferreira tries to defend, but Goltsov continues to land from the top position. Goltsov looks to advance position in the final minute of the round and gets into full mount. Goltsov looks to set up an arm-triangle choke.
Ferreira lands a strong right hand that clips Goltsov around the ear. Ferreira lands another that rocks Goltsov! And another that drops him! Ground-and-pound from Ferreira and this one is over!
Renan Ferreira has captured the PFL Heavyweight World Championship! A Ryan Bader fight awaits. And could Francis Ngannou be in his future?!?
Renan Ferreira def. Denis Goltsov via second-round KO (punches, 0:26)