Canada's Rory MacDonald knocked out by replacement fighter in PFL semifinal

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CARDIFF, United Kingdom — Dilano (The Postman) Taylor, a late replacement, knocked out Canadian welterweight Rory (Red King) MacDonald in the first round of their Professional Fighters League semifinal Saturday.

Taylor (10-2-0) was dominant from the get-go and finished the fight with 11 straight blows from above after felling MacDonald (23-10-1) with a powerful right to the head. Referee Marc Goddard stopped the fight at three minutes 59 seconds.

Taylor will meet Sweden's Sadibou Sy in the final with the 170-pound title and a US$1-million payday on the line.

Sy (12-6-2 with one no-contest) won a unanimous decision (29-27, 29-29, 29-27) over Brazil's Carlos (The Lion) Leal (17-4-0) in the other welterweight semifinal Saturday.

MacDonald, the top seed in the playoff compared to No. 2 for Sy, lost a unanimous decision to the Swede at PFL 6 on July 1. Leal was seeded third.

MacDonald, who also lost in last year's semifinal to eventual champion Ray Cooper III, has now lost four of his last five fights and is 3-6-1 in his last 10 outings.

MacDonald was originally slated to meet (Prince) Magomed Umalatov but the PFL announced Thursday that the unbeaten Russian had visa issues and couldn't get into the country. Russian heavyweight Denis Goltsov also had to drop off the card at Motorpoint Arena, with alternates stepping in as replacements.

Taylor, who fights out of Miami but represents Jamaica, was a third-choice replacement. The PFL said the first two alternates, 2018 welterweight champion Magomed Magomedkerimov of Russia and 2019 and 2020 titleholder Cooper were unable to compete.

Unlike other MMA promotions, the PFL features a regular season, playoffs and championship across six divisions, each with 10 competitors. The four fighters in each weight class who earn the most regular-season points advance to the playoffs with the two semifinal winners meeting for the championship belt and million-dollar purse.

(The Canadian Gangster) Olivier Aubin-Mercier has already advanced to the PFL lightweight final after winning a unanimous decision over Paraguay's Alex Martinez last Friday.

The 33-year-old from Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., will face Scotland's Stevie (Braveheart) Ray for the 155-pound title.

Taylor won a split decision over Brazil's Joao Zeferino at PFL 3 on May 6 before losing by second-round TKO to Magomedkerimov at PFL 6. Taylor, a former champion in the Titan FC promotion, started the season as an alternate after stopping Mark (Showtime) Martin in February in the PFL Challenger Series.

MacDonald opened his season with a first-round submission win over American Brett (Fudoshin) Cooper at PFL 3.

Taylor weighed in at 169 pounds Friday while MacDonald was 171, the welterweight non-title fight limit.

At six-foot-three, Taylor had a three-inch height and one-inch reach advantage over MacDonald, 33-year-old B.C. native who fights out of Montreal.

MacDonald, a former Belaltor champion and UFC contender, looked for a quick takedown as the fight started but found himself on the ground with Taylor on top when an attempted trip backfired. MacDonald, on his back, looked for a submission but Taylor resisted and remained on top in half-guard.

MacDonald fought his way back to his feet and absorbed several jabs from Taylor. Blood trickled from the Canadian's left eye.

Then came the blow that floored Macdonald.

Despite the regular-season loss to Sy, MacDonald emerged as the top seed in the welterweight class thanks to the extra points earned in his stoppage win over Brett Cooper. Umalatov was the fourth seed.

MacDonald joined the PFL in December 2019 but had to wait until last year to make his debut after the 2020 season was wiped out by the pandemic. He is 2-4-0 in the PFL, with the other loss in 2021 to Gleison Tibau, a split decision which most observers thought should have gone the other way.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022

The Canadian Press