Brendan Loughnane’s 2021 PFL season was cut short when he met eventual champion Movlid Khaybulaev. With the Dagestani fighter out for the 2022 tournament due to injury, however, the featherweight division was wide open – and Loughnane started his PFL 2 year against Ryoji Kudo on Thursday.
It was a rocky start at first, with the lesser known Kudo proving he was no pushover.
Not exactly well known to casual MMA audiences, Kudo showed solid variety in his kicks, attacking Loughnane’s outside leg an instant, then going upstairs with the same leg an instant later. Loughnane fired a number of low kicks himself, but was caught and dropped by a right hand from Kudo about two minutes later! Kudo immediately went after the finish, getting the upper hand and dropping the ground and the pound from inside Loughnane’s guard. The British fighter would recover, escaping on his feet; he would land a back kick moments later, but Kudo would fire off another clean right hand, the same attack that had dropped Loughnane earlier in the round.
– PFL (@PFLMMA) April 29, 2022
While Loughnane survived the round, there was no question as to who won it.
Loughnane made a play for a takedown early in the second round, but Kudo easily fought that off. A stiff jab from Loughnane would connect, but Kudo was firing combinations on Loughnane’s single strikes. Another attempt by Loughnane to hang on the fence and find a takedown failed. Loughnane was on his bike later in the round, staying out of reach as Ryoji Kudo chased his opponent. Another clinch from Loughnane led to the landing of a few knees, but Loughnane couldn’t put the fight down. Instead, Kudo connected with another right hand after the break.
Brendan Loughnane’s lack of striking through two rounds was confusing to say the least. Going into the third he most likely needed a finish, although the second frame came pretty close. Kudo, a veteran of the ONE Warriors series and the Shooto, proved to be a very competitive opponent.
Kudo took a big swing and missed the final round opener. This time it was the Japanese fighter looking to get taken down, but Loughnane easily fended off the attempt. Next, Loughnane changed levels, then did a bit of chain wrestling, going from a two-legged attempt to a body lock, then staying on Kudo as they headed for the fence. Kudo fell briefly, got back to his feet quickly, but Loughnane stayed on him – where was that Brendan Loughnane in the first two laps? Kudo would break free, but back to center, Loughnane dodged a punch and landed another very brief takedown. Again, Loughnane stayed on top of his opponent, keeping a body lock in place until Kudo finally turned around and found himself with his back to the fence.
An accidental clash of heads then opened a cut on Kudo, which brought in the doctor. With blood flowing free, the fight was called off, sending it to the judges. With the third round in his back pocket and Kudo clearly winning the first, it happened in the second round – and the judges saw it for Loughnane.
Official result: Brendan Loughnane defeated. Ryoji Kudo by technical decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)