Larissa Pacheco didn’t miss this time.
The Brazilian finisher scored three straight first-round knockouts this season to earn another shot at a PFL championship, a million-dollar prize and a third fight with Kayla Harrison, the face of the league. Pacheco was spectacular in the trilogy bout, taking the fight right to Harrison and dragging her into deep waters. She was rewarded with a trio of 48-47 scores and a win over a fighter who, before Saturday’s event, was the ninth-ranked fighter in the MMA Fighting pound-for-pound Rankings.
Pacheco makes a huge jump from unranked to No. 12. But where does this leave Harrison?
Since the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s 2018 MMA debut, there have been questions about her competitive ceiling and, with respect, the quality of her competition given that she competes at 155 pounds. All-time great Cris Cyborg faced similar scrutiny for competing in the thin featherweight division. Harrison’s pool of challengers was even less distinguished.
Sure enough, Harrison squashed the opposition en route to a 15-0 start to her fighting career (including two wins over Pacheco) and two PFL championships. Along the way, buzz built for potential superfights with Cyborg and two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes, but fans and media remained divided on just how good Harrison actually was. Could she dominate a higher tier of competition as she had in the PFL, or was she simply taking care of business in a division with zero history?
Our rankings panelists were just as at odds on the issue as everyone else, with Harrison previously being as high as No. 3 on our ballots and as low as No. 19. This month, however, she fell to No. 15, out of the top 10 on the consensus list.
One gets the sense that plenty of big fights lie ahead for Harrison, and that she and the PFL may want to think twice about this being her last tournament appearance. Whichever direction she goes in, we now know there’s a formidable opponent in Pacheco that’s more than prepared to stand in her way.
Was Harrison ranked too highly before? Should Pacheco be ranked even higher now?
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