Antonio Carlos Jr. is playoff bound…
The 32-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist (15-5) has earned a spot in the Professional Fighters League’s light heavyweight division playoffs.
He’ll face No. 2 seed Omari Akhmedov (23-7), who was a standout of the regular season.
Akhmedov knocked out Viktor Pesta in the regular-season opener and submitted Teodoras Aukstuolis in the second round on Friday.
Rob Wilkinson (15-2), of Australia, claimed the No. 1 seed with a first-round knockout of Pesta. He will meet Delan Monte (9-2), who snuck into the playoffs with a 1:32 knockout upset of 2019 champion Emiliano Sordi. Three of the four light heavyweights bound for the playoffs — Carlos, Akhmedov and Wilkinson — have competed previously in the UFC.
At lightweight, history repeated itself for fan favorite Clay Collard (21-10), who failed to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year thanks to a split decision loss to Alex Martinez. Collard came up just short of the 2021 playoffs, when he lost a controversial decision to eventual champion Raush Manfio. Collard disagreed with the scores and vowed to win the lightweight championship this year.
The bout between Collard and Martinez (10-2) was incredibly entertaining. Collard set a high pace on the feet, as he always does. He knocked Martinez down in the second round with a left hook and worked the body with effective combinations. Martinez took his back in the second round, however, and threatened with a choke. He won some grappling exchanges in a close, back-and-forth third round.
Former UFC champion Anthony Pettis currently leads the lightweight standings with six points. He’s scheduled for his second regular-season bout later this month. Pettis is already guaranteed a spot in the 2022 playoffs.
Meanwhile, Martinez and Olivier Aubin-Mercier each punched their ticket to the playoffs. The fourth spot will either go to Jeremy Stephens or Stevie Ray.
The other weight classes will settle into their playoff matchups in the coming weeks, including heavyweight, featherweight, welterweight and women’s lightweight.