On October 13 at PFL 9, the light heavyweights and lightweights will fight it out in the playoffs to determine who will fight for a million dollars. Fighters will have to win two fights that night to qualify for the million-dollar fight. The first fight will be two five-minute rounds and the second fight will be three five-minute rounds. One of the competitors in the light heavyweight division is Rakim Cleveland.
To get into the playoffs, Cleveland had to face two tough opponents in Rashid Yusupov and Maxim Grishin. He defeated Rashid Yusupov by doctor stoppage at PFL 2 but he then lost to Maxim Grishin at PFL 5 by submission. The fight with Grishin was tough for Cleveland, it was against a teammate and when facing off in the cage, it didn’t really feel like a fight to him.
“I was kinda too relaxed like it was a training session instead of a fight, which was a mistake on my side.”
There were no hard feelings after the fight, in fact they went back to American Top Team and trained with each other. But now his focus is on the future and he hopes he meets his friend in the finals.
“We’re looking towards the future, like I said, I hope we match meet up in the finals and we’ll see who gets the rubber match then.”
After his two fights in the regular season, Cleveland earned four points which was good enough to get him the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Despite being the lowest seed in the tournament and losing his last fight, Cleveland was never worried about missing the playoffs.
“I knew mathematically, even if there were three first round finishes, which basically it was, two first round finishes and second round finishes. I knew mathematically I was locked in, I was just kinda waiting to see where exactly I landed. Those guys came out guns a blazing on the last card and it dropped me all the way down to eight and here we are.”
Now Cleveland will face top seed Vinny Magalhaes, who is the top seed in the light heavyweight division. The matchup Cleveland believes is an old school style matchup.
“Me and Vinny, it’s going to be one of those classic matchups, striker versus grappler. I don’t really see him wanting to strike very much with me, especially in the playoffs. He’s going to want to impose his will, make it a close quarter fight and take it to the ground. With me, I want to prevent him from taking me down and bang it out.”
For the American Top Team product, not only getting the victory is important but getting a quick victory is essential.
“You want to take out the first fight as quick as you can conserve as much energy and take as little damage as possible, that’s going to be the key.”
“The game plan is to get in and get out with as little damage and as soon as possible.”
Though he has looked ahead to who he would face in the second round, Cleveland believes Magalhaes is the toughest matchup he could get.
“I think my first-round matchup against Vinny is going to be the toughest matchup of the entire night. If I pass Vinny, I’m going to the top.”