PFL vs. Bellator: Champions results, highlights: Renan Ferreira earns shot vs. Francis Ngannou with fast KO

Francis Ngannou might be the hardest hitter in combat sports, but Renan Ferreira wants to prove that distinction belongs to him. Ferreira set the stage for an explosive showdown with Ngannou by quickly knocking out Ryan Bader in a meeting of PFL vs. Bellator champions.

It was announced this week that Ferreira and Bader were fighting not only to represent their brands but also to determine Ngannou's next mixed martial arts fight. Ferreira capitalized on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity flawlessly. The towering heavyweight felled Bader with a straight right and followed up with ground-and-pound punches. The fight was waved off in just 21 seconds. Ferreira improved to 13-3, 3 NC with his 11th career KO. It was a key victory for PFL after the promotion went 0-5 on the main card.

"I am the real problem out here. I am the record breaker and the record-setter," Ferreira said post-fight through a translator. "Francis, where are you? I am the champion here.

"I already am one of the best and greatest heavyweights of all time. I've proved it inside of the smart cage and I'll continue to prove it."

Ngannou has not competed in MMA since a January 2022 win over Ciryl Gane. The former UFC heavyweight champion instead focused on lucrative boxing fights against Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua since leaving UFC and signing with PFL last year. Ferreira will be waiting for "The Predator" whenever he returns to the MMA jungle. It's not only a high-profile opportunity but a lucrative one thanks to the $2 million guarantee Ngannou negotiated for his future opponent when signing with PFL.

Beyond the main event, it was a sweep for Bellator fighters. Each competitor took care of business in their head-to-head showdowns with PFL members. Johnny Eblen needed a bit of a rally against Impa Kasanganay in the co-main event but managed to take a split decision. Bellator welterweight champ Jason Jackson scored a second-round TKO of Ray Cooper III. Former Bellator light heavyweight champ Vadim Nemkov rallied from being rocked by Bruno Cappelozza to score an arm triangle submission in the second round. Yoel Romero outpointed Thiago Santos in a veteran clash. And former champ AJ McKee tapped Clay Collard in under one minute to kick off the show. 

CBS Sports was with you the entire way on Saturday bringing you all the results and highlights. Take a look below at the PFL vs. Bellator main card results.

PFL vs. Bellator card, results

  • Renan Ferreira (c) def. Ryan Bader (c) via first-round TKO (punches)
  • Johnny Eblen (c) def. Impa Kasanganay (c) via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Jason Jackson def. Ray Cooper III via second-round TKO (punches)
  • Vadim Nemkov def. Bruno Cappelozza via second-round submission (arm triangle)
  • Yoel Romero def. Thiago Santos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
  • AJ McKee def. Clay Collard via first-round submission (triangle armbar)
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Renan Ferreira def. Ryan Bader via first-round KO: Ferreira saved the day for PFL and punched his ticket to a major showdown. PFL was down 0-5 heading into Saturday's main event against Bellator. Ferreira dropped Bader with a straight right seconds into the bout and finished him in short order with ground-and-pound punches. It was announced heading into the event that the winner of Ferreira vs. Bader would welcome Ngannou into the PFL cage at a later date.

 
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All that remains is the main event. PFL heavyweight champion Renan Ferreira and Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader collide. The winner will face Francis Ngannou in the former UFC heavyweight champion's eventual MMA return.

 
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Johnny Eblen def. Impa Kasanganay via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28): Eblen shot for a takedown early but Kasanganay did well to get to his feet without taking much damage. Eblen landed a couple of elbows but nothing severe. Eblen continued to avoid Kasanganay's power while using pressure to make things uncomfortable. Everything changed in Round 2. Kasanganay stung Eblen with a powerful combination and put him to the floor. Eblen desperately tried to tie Kasangany up but the PFL fighter did well to sprawl and continue landing crushing blows. Eblen recovered well in the second half of the round but couldn't make up the damage he received.

Eblen's cardio saved him in Round 3. He managed to pick away at his opponent while avoiding serious damage. Eblen picked up the pace as Kasanganay slowed down, taking down his PFL foe and achieving back control. An amazing visual saw Eblen and Kasanganay trading punches and elbows on the floor in the final few seconds. Eblen's right eye badly swollen. The fight went to a split decision with Round 1 likely being the swing round.

 
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The co-main event is up next. Tonight's first champion vs. champion super fight features PFL light heavyweight champion Impa Kasangany moving down to middleweight to battle Bellator's 185-pound champion Johnny Elben. Bellator is up 4-0 on the main card.

 
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Jason Jackson def. Ray Cooper III via second-round TKO: Jackson's commitment to calf kicks had an immediate impact on the fight. Cooper's stability was compromised by the halfway point of Round 1. It forced a desperate shot by Cooper that ended with Jackson securing control. Jackson unloaded with almost a dozen heavy elbows in the final seconds that forced Cooper to cover up. Some of the blows may have been illegal but the referee did not intervene before the round ended. Jackson chopped down Cooper with a leg kick in the opening seconds of Round 2 and swarmed him with ground-and-pound punches. Cooper offered no resistance beyond covering up and the referee quickly waved things off.

 
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Up next is the first reigning champion competing on the main card. Bellator welterweight champion Jason Jackson meets former PFL tournament winner Ray Cooper III in a 182-pound catchweight fight. Jackson competes for the first time since shockingly knocking out undefeated Yaroslav Amosov to become champion.

 
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Vadim Nemkov def. Bruno Cappelozza via second-round technical submission (arm triangle choke): Nemkov looked beefy in his first heavyweight fight since 2005. The former Bellator light heavyweight champion vacated his title in preparation for a full-time heavyweight move. Nemkov looked light on his feet despite packing on an extra 40 pounds compared to his last weigh-in. Nemkov found success bouncing in and out of range, landing jabs and crosses that bloodied Cappelozza's nose. Nemkov took a bad step towards the end of Round 1 and twisted his ankle, but he appeared alright. Cappelozz's best strike was a right hand over Nemkov's shoulder that briefly forced him back. It was a strong first round for Nemkov.

Nemkov's movement continued to pay dividends in Round 2. He stung Cappelozza with long-range punches and avoided counters. Cappelozza managed to ring Nemkov's bell with a hard punch but it spelled the beginning of the end for the PFL fighter. Nemkov responded to danger by taking down Cappelozza. The former Bellator champ quickly achieved mount, locked in an arm triangle choke and put Cappelozza to sleep.

 
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We move to the heavyweight division where 2021 PFL heavyweight tournament winner Bruno Cappelozza. He welcomes former Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov in his first heavyweight bout since 2005. Nemkov vacated the light heavyweight title in advance of his heavyweight return.

 
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Yoel Romero def. Thiago Santos via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28): Both men fought tentatively in Round 1. They traded leg strikes to the head and body while landing a few solid head punches. Santos played the matador, circling on the outside and encouraging Romero to press forward. Romero blitzed forward with looping punches halfway through the round, putting himself off balance and allowing Santos to press forward. Neither man landed clean but a similar tangle late in the round saw Santos land a hard punch that forced Romero back.

Romero shot for a takedown early in Round 2 but couldn't cover the distance. Santos continued to employ a front kick to the body at range. Leg kicks continued to be an important weapon for Romero. Romero found his biggest success all night with leg kicks in Round 3. A couple of chopping leg kicks swung Santos' legs wide and appeared to impact his balance. Santos suffered severe knee injuries while nearly defeating Jon Jones -- who was in attendance at PFL vs. Bellator -- in a 2019 UFC light heavyweight title fight. A huge overhand left landed clean for Santos in the final seconds of the fight.

 
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