There was nothing cuddly about Josh Copeland.
The former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion knocked out Alex Nicholson in the first round of their Professional Fighters League Season 1 heavyweight tournament semifinal at PFL 8 on Friday at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Copeland (18-5) -- who upset top-seeded Francimar Barroso in the quarterfinals -- drew the curtain 1:27 into Round 1.
Nicholson (13-7) disposed of Jack May with a leg kick and follow-up punches to advance out of the quarterfinals but could progress no further. He opened an enormous gash above Copeland’s right eye with a spinning backfist, gave chase and walked into a devastating overhand right that froze him instantly. No additional punches were necessary.
The win, Copeland’s third straight, pushes him into the heavyweight tournament final on Dec. 31 in New York, where he will meet Philipe Lins with $1 million on the line. Lins (13-3) put away Jared Rosholt with punches in the second round of their heavyweight tournament semifinal, bringing it to a close 45 seconds into Round 2.
Rosholt (17-6) -- who took a unanimous decision from Kelvin Tiller in the quarterfinals -- controlled the first round with takedowns, ground-and-pound and close-quarters excellence. However, Lins rebounded early in the second, where he staggered the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran with a crisp two-punch combination, reset and then drove him to the floor with a crushing right hand. A dazed Rosholt hit the deck and could not intelligently defend himself from the Brazilian’s follow-up barrage of punches and hammerfists.
Lins submitted Caio Alencar with a guillotine choke 58 seconds into the first round to advance out of the quarterfinals. The 33-year-old Nova Uniao rep has rattled off three straight victories, all of them finishes.
Meanwhile, well-timed takedowns and oppressive positional control carried Lance Palmer to a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Andre Harrison in their featherweight tournament semifinal. All three cageside judges scored it for Palmer (16-3): 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
Harrison (20-1) -- who eliminated Alexandre Bezerra by majority decision in the quarterfinals -- played it safe in a tepid first round, perhaps squandering an opportunity to seize momentum. Palmer executed a double-leg takedown in the second, advanced to his counterpart’s back and remained there in a standing position for more than three minutes. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler was even more dominant in Round 3, where he struck for another takedown, smothered Harrison on the canvas and achieved full mount on two occasions.
Palmer defeated Max Coga by unanimous decision in the quarterfinals. He will carry a five-fight winning streak into the featherweight tournament final on Dec. 31 in New York, where Steven Siler awaits.
Siler (33-17) punched his ticket to the 145-pound final in unfortunate fashion, as Alexandre Almeida was disqualified for connecting with an illegal upkick in the second round of their semifinal. The foul resulted in an anticlimactic conclusion 52 seconds into Round 2, cost Almeida (20-9) a shot at the $1 million prize and erased his good work from a majority decision over Jumabieke Tuerxun in the quarterfinals.
A graduate of Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Siler bounced Nazareno Malegarie from the tournament by unanimous decision in the quarterfinals. The 31-year-old Factory X export has pieced together a four-fight winning streak.
In other action, the unbeaten Muhammed DeReese struck journeyman Mike Kyle into submission 2:38 into the first round of their heavyweight tournament alternate bout.