Four heavyweights open PFL ’24 with KO victories

SAN ANTONIO — The PFL’s 2024 regular season got off to a blistering start on Thursday, as four heavyweights earned bonus points via knockout.

Russian heavyweight Valentin Moldavsky (13-3) earned a division-leading six points with a first-round knockout of Ante Delija (24-6). Oleg Popov (17-1) and Daniel James (15-7-1) sit in second and third place with five points apiece, while PFL veteran Denis Goltsov (33-8) sits in fourth place with a four-point third-round finish of Linton Vassell.

The opening round of the 2024 season took place inside the Boeing Center. It is the first season event since the PFL’s acquisition of Bellator MMA late last year. Moldavsky, who trains under MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, is one of the top names to come over from Bellator and the former interim champ did not disappoint, as he finished Delija with strikes along the fence just 2:17 into the opening round.

In addition to big heavyweight finishes, the other story of the night was Manchester’s Dakota Ditcheva (11-0), who demolished Lisa Mauldin (6-4) in her PFL flyweight regular-season debut. Ditcheva, 25, hurt Mauldin with long distance kicks on the feet, eventually dropping her multiple times for a first-place finish. She is 6-0 in PFL competition with six finishes, five of which have come inside the first round.

Three-time defending flyweight champion Liz Carmouche (21-7) also looked good in a three-round decision over former champion Juliana Velasquez (12-3). Carmouche has defeated Velasquez three times in the past two years and earned three points with Thursday’s victory. She is widely viewed as one of the favorites to win this year’s PFL championship, along with former UFC title challenger Taila Santos (20-3), who rolled to a first-round finish over Ilara Joanne.

Following Thursday’s opening round, Ditcheva, Santos and Jena Bishop (7-0) sit in a three-way tie for first place at 125 pounds. Carmouche and Japan’s Kana Watanabe (13-2-1) are tied for fourth and fifth with three-point decision wins.

The PFL’s regular season continues next week in Las Vegas with its light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.

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