Kayla Harrison made it look easy once again on Thursday night, moving one final step away from her second straight $1 million championship in the PFL playoffs.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist judoka remained undefeated in MMA with a first-round TKO of Genah Fabian in the women’s lightweight semifinal in Hollywood, Florida.
Harrison (11-0) was in control from the start — or at least from around 45 seconds into the bout. That was when Harrison closed distance and locked her opponent in a clinch against the cage. Fabian, a former Muay Thai kickboxing world champion, was able to remain on her feet for over a minute, but by midway through the round Harrison had put her on her back and was in side control.
Then Harrison, the 2019 PFL champ, moved into full mount and began dropping big punches until referee Andrew Glenn jumped in to wave off the fight as a TKO at 4 minutes, 1 second of Round 1.
“Listen, everyone keeps saying, oh, how do you solve the Kayla Harrison puzzle? … Spoiler alert: There is no fricking puzzle,” said Harrison. “I put you on your back and I mess you up.”
Harrison, who trains at American Top Team in nearby Coconut Creek, messed up Fabian a lot in less than a round, building a 66-0 striking advantage. Next she will direct her fury toward Taylor Guardado, who earned a place in the Oct. 27 final by defeating alternate Mariana Morais in Thursday’s other 155-pound semifinal. Harrison is the No. 2 seed, Guardado No. 3. Morais was a late replacement for No. 1 seed Larissa Pacheco, who missed weight on Wednesday.
“I told you: One by one, they’re all gonna fall,” said Harrison. “So doubt me now, but I’m gonna show you how great I am.”
Fabian (4-2), a 31-year-old from New Zealand, trains at City Kickboxing, home of two UFC champions — middleweight Israel Adesanya and featherweight Alexander Volkanovski. In the leadup to Thursday’s bout, that gym pedigree was often brought up as Fabian’s best hope. Harrison did not buy it.
“You kept talking about scientists — oh, the scientists at City Kickboxing,” said Harrison. “Izzy couldn’t stop my takedowns.”
The other semifinals on Thursday set up the PFL heavyweight finale, which will pit Bruno Cappelozza vs. Ante Delija. Cappelozza, the top seed, knocked out No. 4 seed Jamelle Jones in the second round. Delija, the No. 3 seed, upset second-seeded Denis Goltsov by unanimous decision.
The finals in the PFL’s six weight classes also will be at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, and will be on ESPN2. The welterweight and lightweight finalists were determined last week, and the featherweight and light heavyweights semifinals will be fought on Aug. 27.