Andre Harrison appeared to be on the brink of his first professional mixed martial arts knockout loss on Thursday in his second and final bout of the Professional Fighters League regular season.
LI’s Harrison was sent stumbling into the cage after a Movlid Khaybulaev flying knee near the end of the first round, putting him in one of the worst spots of his MMA career as he fended off a barrage of punches with the referee ready to step in at any moment.
Fortunately for Harrison, the bell sounded first, and the Freeport native came back from a near defeat to even the fight over two rounds for a majority draw at PFL 5 in Atlantic City (28-28, 28-28, 29-28 Harrison).
We may not have seen Harrison in such a bad position before in his fights, but he said he has plenty of experience working out of danger.
“I thought it was the end of the round cause I heard the guy with the blocks, so I figured 10 seconds left and that was happening toward the end, but I train at Bellmore Kickboxing, we have the hardest sparring out there,” Harrison said. “So, being in a spot like that, I’m not a stranger to being in a bad position and having to work my way back.”
Both fighters were awarded one point in the PFL featherweight standings for the draw with each clinching a playoff berth in the process.
Harrison appeared hurt just over a minute in when Khaybulaev landed a spinning back kick, but Harrison didn’t get flustered and retook control of the cage. Khaybulaev, however, didn’t let up. In the closing seconds of the round, Khaybulaev landed a heavy flying knee, which left Harrison off balance against the cage. Khaybulaev swarmed, landing multiple shots as Harrison fell to the ground and following up on the canvas, but the bell sounded before Khaybulaev could secure a TKO.
“I thought it was the end of the round cause I heard the guy with the blocks, so I figured 10 seconds left and that was happening toward the end," Harrison said.
Khaybulaev celebrated as if the bout was stopped, but the fighters were back in the center of the cage a minute later for the second round. Harrison recovered well and soon had a stunning strike of his own, putting Khaybulaev off balance and bloody with a powerful right hand early in the frame.
“I knew he won that first round so I knew I needed to do something in that second and third round to make something happen,” Harrison said. “When I landed that shot, and I think I hit him with an uppercut after, I saw that it cut his eye open, I was like, ‘all right, he got me first round, I got him this round, let me see if I can get him away or have a dominant third round.’”
Harrison's third round was far from dominant, and he was outstruck 37-18 over the entire fight, but it was enough for the draw.
“Definitely not what I wanted but I had a game opponent, he came in here and he’s tough as nails,” Harrison said. “We both put it all out here on the line."
PFL 2019 FEATHERWEIGHT PLAYOFF SEEDING
1. Lance Palmer (7 points)
2. Movlid Khaybulaev (7 points)
3. Luis Rafael Laurentino (6 points)
4. Alex Gilpin (6 points)
5. Andre Harrison (4 points)
6. Jeremy Kennedy (3 points)
7. Daniel Pineda (3 points)
8. Gadzhi Rabadanov (3 points)