Voting is now open for the 12th annual World MMA Awards. Head here to vote for your favourite fighters and MMA personalities.
Fighters Only have extended the nomination period from 12 months to 18 months (1st January 2019 – 30th June 2020) to best account for all global MMA action and performances.
The star-studded, black-tie 2020 World MMA Awards event will be held in October 2020 on a date and location to be announced.
In the lead-up to the big show, we are profiling each of the 12th annual World MMA Awards nominees.
Kayla Harrison is nominated for the Female Fighter of the Year in the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Kayla Harrison blitzed her way through her opposition throughout 2019.
The 6th-degree Judo blackbelt fought four times last year, winning each of them as Harrison left the last decade as the PFL women’s lightweight champion – a title she won on New Year’s Eve.
Harrison, a gold medal-winning Judoka at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro, has taken to MMA like a duck to water as she transitioned from one martial art discipline to a variety.
Despite having fought four times in 2019, Harrison didn’t actually begin her fight season until May.
The Massachusetts-based grappler took on Larissa Pacheco in the headline fight of the opening event Professional Fighters League’s 2019 regular season.
Harrison was supposed to face Russia’s Svetlana Khautova 9 May, but the latter pulled out of the bout just three days before they were scheduled to square off.
The last-minute change of opponent did little to throw Harrison off her game, though, as she eased to a dominant unanimous decision win.
All three rounds saw Harrison frustrate the more experienced MMA fighter in Pacheco with her takedowns and high-level grappling control. Though Pacheco threatened with the occasional triangle choke and at one point took Harrison’s back, the Olympian was never in any real trouble as she impressed in just her fourth mixed martial arts contest.
Frustrated at not finishing Pacheco last time out, Harrison was determined to stop the fight early against her next regular season opponent Morgan Frier at PFL 4 in July.
Harrison got her wish.
After closing the distance with a looping left overhand, Harrison closed the distance to trip Frier to the floor and then take her back.
In between some ground and pound, Frier managed to get herself back into half guard but Harrison was relentless in her pressure from on top.
Harrison was happy to sit in half guard to land more punches from top position and soon transitioned into the crucifix position to crank on a key lock submission to get the quick tap and take a first-round submission win.
This victory saw Harrison enter the PFL playoffs as the second seed behind former Strikeforce and Invicta champion Sarah Kaufman.
The 30-year-old was due to take on New Zealand striker Genah Fabian – the number three seed – in her playoff semifinal bout at PFL 7 but again saw her opponent pull out – this time at the very last minute. The Kiwi was forced to withdraw due to weight cut issues on the eve of the fight and was replaced by number five seed Canadian Bobbi Jo Dalziel for their October contest.
Dalziel had earlier defeated Fabian by unanimous decision at PFL 1 in the earliest stage of the 2019 tournament.
Harrison expertly tripped Dalziel to the floor less than a minute into the contest, but the latter showed some good defence to get back to her feet. That didn’t last long though as Harrison quickly managed to secure another takedown – landing in side control – in the centre of the cage.
This time around, Harrison got to work and quickly. She flew into full mount after softening Dalziel up with some punches from side control. Harrison then proceeded to blast away with some heavy shots from on top before snatching Dalziel’s limb for an armbar.
Dalziel valiantly tried to resist the submission attempt, but that was all in vain as she was forced to tap as Harrison hyperextended her right arm.
Another fight, another win. Harrison was now on a collision course to meet Pacheco, who she earlier defeated at PFL 1 in May, in the playoff final at a shot at the PFL women’s lightweight championship and the $1million prize.
Brazil’s Pacheco, who was the tournament’s fourth seed, upset the odds by defeating the aforementioned first seed Kaufman by decision earlier that night.
Harrison and Pacheco vied for championship gold in the main event of PFL 10 on New Year’s Eve at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
As you’ll know by now, Harrison has a taste for gold and the two-time Olympic champion didn’t let this crucial moment in her combat sports career pass her by.
Harrison was able to take down and control Pacheco in each of the five rounds in a display which really showed how her grappling is levels above her competition.
Pacheco had her moments, including a knee to the head in the third round, but Harrison’s will and skills would not be beaten.
Harrison deservedly won the unanimous decision without losing a round – including one which was scored 10-8 in her favour from superior grappling alone – with scores of 50-45, 50-45 and 50-43 going in the American’s favour.
In little over a year since her start in MMA, Harrison has not only improved her all-round fighting abilities leaps and bounds, she also looks totally dominant in her weight class and a fighter who other tournament entrants will want to avoid at all costs.
Harrison left 2019 as PFL women’s lightweight champion and $1million richer. That’s why she is nominated as the Female Fighter of the Year at the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
Is Kayla Harrison your Female Fighter of the Year?
Voting is now open for the 12th annual World MMA Awards.
Head here to vote for your favourite fighters and MMA personalities.