Larissa Pacheco just shocked the world.
In a stunning performance, Pacheco handed two-time champion Kayla Harrison the first main event loss of her career on the PFL Championship card on Friday in New York City.
Pacheco showed off a series of punishing strikes as she forced Harrison to work for every position she got in five rounds, while also nearly giving her own submission to the ground. Even as Harrison managed to go deep into takedowns, Pacheco pounded her with punches and did more damage over five rounds to get the nod when the fight was over.
All three judges scored the fight 48-47 with Pacheco getting the win over Harrison.
“It’s the pinnacle of a career,” Pacheco said after her upset victory. “A culmination of a dream. It means the world to me.”
Nearly a 10-to-1 underdog as the night began, Pacheco Harrison’s aura of invincibility began to wear off as soon as she had room to work, showing no fear even in the grappling exchanges with the two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo.
As the fight started, Harrison wasted no time closing the distance and landing a slick trip in that sent Pacheco crashing to the canvas in the opening round. Harrison was methodical with her ground attack as she set up her punches as she pushed Pacheco to the cage to trap her there to inflict even more punishment.
Pacheco found an opening to counter Harrison’s struggle with an attempted guillotine choke on an attempt to take down two legs, sending the lightweights scrambling to the mat. Harrison eventually got back to her feet, but Pacheco showed that she wouldn’t just give up a position on the feet or on the ground.
Late in the second round, Pacheco finally connected with a stabbing combination that put Harrison on her back foot for the first time. Pacheco surged forward with another barrage of punches as Harrison tried to avoid further damage.
When the fight finally returned to the ground, Pacheco almost locked in a triangle choke, but Harrison refused to give up as she fought her way out. That led to Harrison going up the mountain trying to overwhelm Pacheco with her top pressure as she rained down punches from above.
With no desire to play with Pacheco any longer, Harrison immediately began closing distance to look for the takedown once the fight faded into the championship rounds. While Harrison tried her best to maintain control, Pacheco was constantly threatening from below and hitting reversals to get the fight back on track.
Whenever Pacheco had an opening to throw strikes, she made Harrison pay as she kept the fight close in the final five-minute session.
As Harrison tried to secure the win with another takedown, Pacheco began to punish her with a series of vicious hammer fists and punches. Harrison eventually had to let go of the leg to avoid the blows, but was able to take advantage of a Pacheco foul to get back on top.
Even from there, Pacheco was still throwing stabbing punches from the bottom, preventing Harrison from really putting in an attack.
As the decision was read, Pacheco celebrated the biggest win of her career, while a dejected Harrison tasted defeat for the first time in her mixed martial arts career.
“This belt just motivates me to work even harder,” said Pacheco. “I have a lot more to do in this sport.
“As Kayla said before, I’ve always made her a better competitor, while she’s always made me a better competitor, and she’s brought me to this moment now.”
The result is sure to shake up the PFL heading into 2023 as Pacheco claimed the lightweight title, while Harrison has already said she has no plans to re-enter the tournament format. Given the stakes in this fight, it’s likely that the promotion will almost certainly try to align these two again in the not-too-distant future.
Full results for the PFL Championship 2022 card below:
Larissa defeats Pacheco. Kayla Harrison via unanimous decision (48-47,48-47, 48-47)
Brendan Loughnane defeats. Bubba Jenkins via TKO (strikes) – Round 4, 2:38
Ante defeats Delija. Matheus Scheffel via Knockout (punches) – Round 1, 2:50
Aspen defeats Ladd. Julia Budd via split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48)
Olivier Aubin-Mercier defeats. Stevie Ray via Knockout (Punch) – Round 2, 4:40
Sadibou Sy def. Dilano Taylor via unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)
Rob Wilkinson defeats. Omari Akhmedov via TKO (doctor stoppage) – Round 2, 5:00
Preliminary Map (ESPN+ at 5:30 PM ET)
Defeats Sheymon Moraes. Marlon Moraes via TKO – Round 3, 0:58
Nathan Schulte defeats. Jeremy Stephens via submission (arm-triangle) – Round 2, 1:32
Magomed defeats Magomedkerimov. Gleison Tibau via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Defeats Dakota Ditcheva. Katherine Corogenes via KO – Round 1, 4:20
Biaggio defeats Ali Walsh. Tom Graesser via KO (punch) – Round 1, 0:45