Zach Juusola (12-9) steps in on short notice to take on Jozef Wittner (16-2) in a bout featuring the 2 most experienced fighters on this week's 2023 PFL Challenger Series card. Juusola has stopped nine of his 12 career victories, but has lost six of his last seven bouts. Wittner, the winningest fighter at the event, carries a 4 fight win streak into this bout as he makes his PFL and US debuts. Wittner appears to be one to watch tonight, and we’ll see if he’s able to punch his ticket and secure a PFL contract.
The bell rings and Wittner rushes to take the center of the SmartCage and starts firing low kicks early. Wittner continues to find a home for these low kicks and he keeps the pressure on with punches in bunches, landing a big left hook directly on the chin of Juusola.
Wittner gets in deep on a high crotch about a minute into the round but Juusola is able to recover and eventually lands a nice knee in the clinch before Wittner is able to circle back out and break. Wittner is staying loose and fighting behind his jab but Juusola is having some moments now, landing a nice right hook followed by a nice one-two, forcing Wittner to shoot a desperation takedown he does not secure.
It appears Wittner may have applied too much pressure early and is struggling with his gas tank now as Juusola is picking up steam now. Juusola catches a kick and sweeps Wittner off his feet, following him to the ground with a big shot before using his hand to compromise the breathing of Wittner.
With a minute to go in the round Juusola is heavy on top in half guard. Both fighters pepper some short blows and the round will end with Juusola on top.
Wittner opens this round the same as he began the first, with a blitzing low kick. Wittner lands a nice body straight with a right hand behind it but Juusola doesn’t let him settle in, landing a beautiful three punch combination as Wittner already seems to be slowing down again.
Wittner lands a flurry of heavy uppercuts before catching a kick from Juusola and taking him to the ground.
Back-and-forth action midway through the 2nd round!#PFLonFubo LIVE NOW— PFL (@PFLMMA) January 28, 2023
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After some jockeying for position, Wittner briefly lands up on top before getting swept onto his back as Juusola rains down heavy body shots from side control.
Juusola attempts to get his knee on Wittner’s belly but Wittner defends as Juusola attacks subs and stays busy with ground and pound. This has been an extremely impressive performance for Juusola so far, taking this fight on short notice against a highly touted prospect in Wittner.
Juusola looks for an arm triangle/scarfhold but can’t get it, posturing up and landing some BIG shots to end the round. What a stunning two rounds of action so far!
The final round is underway and the Wittner corner has wisely told their fighter they believe they need a finish. Both fighters exchange jabs as Juusola lands a big right hand at the end of an exchange.
Juusola seems content to work in the clinch for now and Wittner will need to show some urgency if he wants to keep his dreams of securing a PFL contract alive. Right on cue, Wittner breaks the clinch and creates some space but Juusola seems to have him timed up now, landing another one-two on the entry before initiating the clinch and peeling Wittner off the cage to land a bodylock takedown.
Juusola is staying heavy on top right now and staying busy with ground and pound, working the body and mixing in shots to the head but not doing quite enough to threaten finishing the fight.
It’s hard to imagine this performance winning Juusola a contract, especially considering we saw a finish in the first fight of the night, but that was still quite impressive.
Zach Juusola snaps Jozef Wittner’s win streak as a short notice replacement.
Zach Juusola def. Jozef Wittner via UD (30-27 3x)