NEW YORK — The PFL had high hopes for Anthony Pettis when it signed him to a multi-year deal in 2021. But for the second consecutive year, Pettis has failed to make the tournament final.
Pettis (25-14), a former UFC champion, dropped a unanimous decision against Stevie Ray in the main event of PFL’s event Friday at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden. All three judges scored the lightweight fight 29-28 for Ray (25-10).
The semi-final was a rematch of a fight that took place just six weeks ago during the 2022 regular season. Ray, from Scotland, won that fight too, when he tapped Pettis into a rare custom twister.
All week, Pettis, 35, had promised the rematch would be different. He entered their first fight with nothing to really win, having already secured a playoff spot in his opening fight of the season with a first round finish. He praised Ray for the win, but acknowledged that it was difficult to get motivated for a fight if the outcome didn’t change his playoff status.
Pettis looked good against Ray on Friday, but was outmatched on the floor. Pettis landed good kicks to the body, but Ray walked him to the fence on rounds 1 and 2, knocking him down and chasing a variety of entries.
Ray will advance to the final on November 25 at a location to be announced. He will take on Olivier Aubin-Mercier (16-5), who secured his ticket to the final with a strong decision win over Alex Martinez. Aubin-Mercier dropped Martinez with his left hand twice in the fight and checked him on the floor.
During Friday’s event, light heavyweights Robert Wilkinson (16-2) and Omari Akhmedov (24-7-1) also advanced to that division’s final. Wilkinson, from Australia, knocked out Delan Monte in the opening round of their semi-final matchup with knees. He was on fire in 2022, noting three consecutive finishes. Akhmedov defeated Josh Silveira by unanimous decision.
All four of the 2022 PFL finalists have previously fought in the UFC. Wilkinson made two appearances in 2017 and 2018, including one against 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.