It’s the main event of the final PFL Challenger Series bout of 2023 already as Lightweights Kendly St. Louis and Paulo Laia take center stage. Laia made history as the first deaf fighter to compete under the PFL banner after earning his spot on the Challenger Series by winning two fights in one night on the International Qualifier Series. St. Louis was a finalist in Week 1 after winning a bout on only 4 days notice to extend his winning streak to five fights.
The fight begins in frantic fashion as the fighters rush to the center of the SmartCage and Laia lands a nice roundhouse kick to the body. Both men continue to throw out some range finders as Laia throws a kick that St. Louis catches and he dumps him to the mat but Laia recovers, popping back up.
Not for long however as St. Louis takes Laia down and lands in top half guard with a deep underhook, but he can’t do much with it as Laia recovers a bit and manages to wrestle back up to his feet. Laia puts his hand to the mat to ground himself to prevent St. Louis from kneeing him but St. Louis is all over him, briefly taking the back before Laia turns back into him and reverses position, breaking the clinch and landing a big straight right followed by a switch knee.
St. Louis again shoots but can’t finish, with Laia reversing and taking St. Louis down and taking the back in one fluid motion. Laia can’t keep the position however as St. Louis reverses into top half guard and frames off Laia with his forearm before landing some short punches.
Laia is once again able to get back to his feet with about 20 seconds remaining in the round as the fighters trade short punches in the clinch until the bell rings and the round ends.
Round 2 begins and Laia takes the center of the SmartCage but St. Louis quickly turns up the pressure and lands a big right hand that seems to stun Laia, and St. Louis is teeing off before Laia clinches and eventually manages to pick the ankle briefly. However, St. Louis is quickly back to his feet.
Laia takes the back in the clinch and drops, locking up the body triangle and threatening the rear naked choke before St. Louis is able to turn his hips in and reverse to full guard. Laia is staying busy with strikes from the bottom but St. Louis starts to turn it up, mixing in ground and pound to the head and body with some heavy shots.
Laia attempts to wrestle back to his feet but St. Louis is able to lace a leg and stay heavy on top, unloading some heavy shots before Laia is forced to retreat back to half guard. The referee warns St. Louis to be more active and he abides, landing a flurry of heavy shots before Laia briefly gets back to his feet only for St. Louis to drag him back to the mat and take the back. St. Louis attempts a rear naked choke but won’t have time to finish it as the round ends.
Laia again opens the round with a body kick as St. Louis returns fire with a lead hook. St. Louis comes forward and eats a big right from Laia but not without landing a nice hook of his own.
The referee pauses the action briefly to fix tape on the gloves of St. Louis and they restart with more of the same and both men swinging. Laia lands a nice combination that begins with a jab and ends with a straight right but St. Louis shoots in deep and lifts Laia clean off the ground and slams him to the mat and into top half guard.
Laia again tries to wrestle up but St. Louis just overpowers him, shoving him back to the mat and getting heavy on top once again as he lands some big shots to the head from the top half guard. Laia manages to land a big hammerfist from the bottom but St. Louis applies the top pressure once more. St. Louis is landing some big shots at this point, punctuating a dominant performance as the clock continues to wind.
St. Louis lands big once more but Laia is able to scramble out from underneath him but it’s too little too late as the bout will end with Laia still on his back after taking a battering from St. Louis all round.
Kendly St. Louis cruises to a sweep on the judges scorecard, but will he earn the PFL contract?
Kendly St. Louis def. Paulo Laia via UD (30-27 3x)