NEW YORK — The PFL had high hopes for Anthony Pettis when he signed him to a multi-year deal in 2021. But for the second year in a row, Pettis failed to advance to the tournament final.
Pettis (25-14), a former UFC champion, dropped a unanimous decision from Stevie Ray in the main event of PFL’s Friday event inside the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. All three judges scored the lightweight bout 29-28 for Ray (25-10).
The semi-final fight was a rematch of a fight that took place just six weeks ago in the 2022 regular season. Ray of Scotland also won that fight, when he tapped out Pettis in a rare modified twister.
All week, Pettis, 35, had promised the rematch would be different. He went into their first fight not really winning, as he had already secured a playoff spot in his season opener with a first-round finish. He credited Ray for the victory, but acknowledged that it had been difficult to motivate himself for a fight when the result would not change his playoff status.
Pettis looked good on the feet Friday against Ray but was badly outplayed on the floor. Pettis landed some good body kicks but Ray drove him to the fence in rounds one and two, took him down and chased a variety of submissions.
Ray will advance to the final on Nov. 25 at a location to be announced. He will face Olivier Aubin Mercier (16-5), who clinched their ticket to the final with a solid decision victory Alex Martinez. Aubin-Mercier dropped Martinez left-handed twice in the fight and controlled him to the ground.
Friday’s event also saw light heavyweights Robert Wilkinson (16-2) and Omari Akhmedov (24-7-1) qualify for the final of this division. Wilkinson of Australia eliminated Delan Monte in the first round of their semi-final with the knees. He’s been on fire in 2022, registering three straight finishes. Akhmedov defeated Josh Silveira by unanimous decision.
All four 2022 PFL finalists have fought in the UFC before. Wilkinson made two appearances in 2017 and 2018, including one against the current UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Akhmedov went 9-6-1 in the Octagon from 2013 to 2021. Ray fought in the UFC from 2015 to 2019, and Aubin-Mercier was there from 2014 to 2019.