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Savannah Marshall stops Mirela Vargas in MMA debut at PFL Europe before calling out Claressa Shields

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Savannah Marshall dazzled on her MMA debut as she stopped Mirela Vargas in a frantic first round at PFL Europe in Newcastle on Saturday night.

Marshall was competing in the cage for the first time having made a step across to MMA after defeating Franchon Crews-Dezurn to become undisputed super-middleweight boxing champion in July last year.

An early acid test arrived in the form of multiple takedowns, from which Marshall recovered superbly to showcase her talents as one of the fiercest punchers in female boxing.

Marshall remained calm in the face of some troublesome early leg kicks, demonstrating her training alongside UFC interim heavyweight champion Tom Aspinall to get back to her feet smoothly.

Her knockout exploits would soon prove too much for Vargas as she unleashed a vicious flurry of shots that forced the referee to bring the contest to a halt.

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Marshall walked out wearing a Newcastle shirt in front of her home fans

With long-time boxing rival Claressa Shields in attendance, Marshall wasted no time in reiterating her intentions to meet the American in the PFL.

“Are we getting it on in the cage or what?” Marshall said. “Let’s do it. Full MMA rules. Let’s go!”

Shields beat Marshall via unanimous decision when the two headlined the UK’s first televised all-female boxing card at The O2 in October 2022.

It capped a fiery build-up stemming from Marshall’s victory over Shields in the amateur ranks, which remains the latter’s only career boxing defeat to date.

Shields herself made the decision to dip her toes in the world of MMA when she made her PFL debut in 2021, since which she has amassed a record of 2-1.

Marshall weathered an early storm to overpower Vargas
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Marshall weathered an early storm to overpower Vargas

She is now scheduled to make her return in boxing by challenging Vanessa Lepage-Joanisse for the WBC heavyweight title in Detroit on July 27, setting her sights on becoming a four-weight world champion.

Marshall’s debut comes after just nine months of training in MMA, the 33-year-old not shying from repeatedly admitting that the prospect of facing Shields was a major factor in her decision to step across.

“These MMA fighters, you’ve got to be a little bit crazy to do this,” said Marshall.

“I’ve loved it, fight week, the training, the MMA community has welcomed me with open arms. It’s a tough sport and I take my hat off to anyone who does it.”

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