Collard knocked down Pettis, the former UFC lightweight champion, twice in Round 2 and survived a head-kick knockdown in the third round to take a unanimous-decision victory in the PFL's headline fight at Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In a meeting of two fighters making their PFL debuts, Collard was the aggressor throughout, moving forward with an unrelenting assault of punches and kicks. Pettis, who was listed as a -588 favorite by Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, defended well for the first round and into the second, but two minutes into the middle round Collard hurt him with a body punch, then dropped him with a left to the head. Pettis got back to his feet and escaped along the cage, but Collard went right back to pursuing him and again hurt Pettis with a body punch before dropping him a second time.
Pettis, a 34-year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, appeared badly hurt, and even though Collard could not finish him, an upset was brewing. Midway through Round 3, however, the flashy, creative Pettis wobbled Collard with a head kick and floored him with a knee. Suddenly, it appeared that he might get the finish. But Collard survived to the horn, then raised his arms triumphantly, anticipating the decision.
Two judges scored the bout 29-27, and the other had it 29-28, all in Collard's favor.
This was not the first time Collard (19-8-1) has pulled off a surprise. The 28-year-old, who fights out of Las Vegas, is a longtime MMA fighter who took up pro boxing a few years ago. In 2020 he won five in a row in the boxing ring.
Pettis (24-11), who reigned in the UFC from 2013 to 2015, was not the night's only upset victim.
A pair of two-time defending PFL season champions also lost their fights. Lance Palmer, who won the $1 million featherweight prize in both 2018 and 2019, saw his 11-fight winning streak end in a lopsided decision loss to old collegiate wrestling rival Bubba Jenkins. And Natan Schulte, the lightweight champion in both of those years, dropped a much closer decision to Marcin Held.