NEW YORK — (The Canadian Gangster) Olivier Aubin-Mercier won a unanimous decision over Paraguay's Alex Martinez on Friday to move into the lightweight final of the Professional Fighters League.
The 33-year-old from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., will face Scotland's Stevie (Braveheart) Ray for the 155-pound title and a US$1-million payday.
Aubin-Mercier (16-5-0) knocked Martinez down seconds into both the second and third rounds, controlling him on the ground once they got there.
The judges scored the bout 30-27, 30-26, 30-26 for Aubin-Mercier.
Fourth-seeded Ray (25-10-0) advanced with an upset unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over former UFC champion Anthony (Showtime) Pettis in the other lightweight semifinal at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theatre. Pettis (25-14-0) was the top seed in the division.
The Hulu Theatre seats between 2,000 and 5,600 as opposed to the 20,000-capacity Garden.
Unlike other MMA promotions, the Professional Fighters League features a regular season, playoffs and championship. The four fighters in each division who earn the most regular season points advance to the playoffs with the two semifinal winners meeting for the title and a US$1-million payday.
Aubin-Mercier, the No. 2 seed, weighed in at 155 pounds Thursday, while Martinez, the third seed, was 156 pounds.
The two fighters had trained together in the past in Montreal and consider themselves friends. Martinez, now fighting out of Grande Prairie, Alta., walked to the cage Friday with a combination Canadian/ Paraguayan flag.
Aubin-Mercier took the centre of the cage from the start while Martinez looked to connect with kicks from the outside. When Aubin-Mercier lunged in, Martinez (10-3-0 with one no-contest) was content to counter-punch and kick. Martinez was the aggressor as the round ended.
Aubin-Mercier cracked Martinez with a left to the chin early in the second. Martinez went down with Aubin-Mercier following him down and landing in his guard. Martinez tried to lock in an armbar from below but Aubin-Mercier resisted and then took his back.
Martinez, caught in a body triangle, tried to fight off the choke but Aubin-Mercier had plenty of time in the round to improve his position. Somehow, Martinez survived the round.
Aubin-Mercier crunched Martinez's jaw with a left some 15 seconds into the third, dropping him again. Back in control on the ground, Aubin-Mercier took his back again while applying a body lock and looking for the choke.
Aubin-Mercier won both his regular-season fights this year, winning a unanimous decision over Brazil's Natan (Russo) Schulte at PFL 1 on April 20 and a split decision over Brazil's Raush Manfio at PFL 4 on June 17. Manfio was the 2021 champion.
Martinez advanced to the playoffs with a unanimous decision over Ray at PFL 1 and a split decision over (Cassius) Clay Collard at PFL 4.
Aubin-Mercier, who trains at both H2O MMA and Tristar in Montreal, has won all five of his PFL bouts since leaving the UFC where he was 7-5-0.
Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald is also in the PFL playoffs. He is scheduled to meet Russian (Prince) Magomed Umalatov in the 170-pound semifinals on Aug. 13 in Cardiff, Wales.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2022
The Canadian Press