PFL (Professional Fighter’s League) continues to add moving pieces to their heavyweight division, which much like light heavyweight has a surprisingly diverse array of participants. Familiar names are back, but some newer faces could potentially derail some more established fighters. This week, we’ll see some of that as well as a rock-solid featherweight division that creates a tight field in the opening round of the 2022 million-dollar tournament.
Bruno Cappelozza (14-5) never quite found his footing in RIZIN after racking up wins on the Brazilian circuit, but her turned a corner in PFL to blow out the field in 2021. A quick win over Ante Delija was followed by a finish against Mo DeReese, then another against Jamelle Jones. He defeated Delija again in the finals to nab the million dollar prize, and now returns to solidify his legacy and make life-changing money once again.
Bruno’s got devastating leg kicks and much more focused striking, but his real threat is when he’s able to walk opponents down and keep them on their back foot. It’s punches in bunches after that, but he can be stifled with counters and opponents that are better at using their jab. He’s still got farm strength and better takedown defense, but he’ll have to worry more about range this week.
And that’s because he’s up against Stuart Austin, a UK fighter that’s a BAMMA, Bellator and EFC vet with a sneaky boxing base, a strong clinch, and some decent volume and pressure. While his PFL debut last year didn’t go his way, he may be able to cause some problems for Cappelozza, who nonetheless should be the favorite here.
Chris Wade (20-7) had a very successful 2021 that ended in a heartbreaker of a decision loss against Movlid Khaybulaev in the finals. His time in PFL has shown him to be incredibly durable while continuing to evolve as a fighter, as well as some shockers like this finish in a barnburner against Arman Ospanov.
This year, he starts fresh against former champ Lance Palmer (22-5), who came into 2021 as a two-time champ. Unfortunately, the Team Alpha Male product dropped two straight to a resurgent Bubba Jenkins and the eventual champ Khaybulaev. That bounced him out of the tournament altogether before the playoffs, but he’s looking to make a statement against last year’s runner-up in a very tough matchup.
Feel-good story Brendan Loughnane (21-4) remains another one of PFL’s brightest signings, winning his PFL debut in 2019 and a second bout two months later. 2021 saw him open up guns blazing as he dispatched Sheymon Moraes in impressive fashion. After his next win over Tyler Diamond, his year ended with a loss to Khaybulaev as well. He meets Shooto vet Ryoji Kudo (10-2, 1 draw), who delivers some very heavy punches with some very grimy grappling and lots of ground strikes.
Renan Ferreira (8-2) had a great start to his PFL run until he didn’t. The good news was he scored a massive upset against Fabricio Werdum in the opener last year. The bad news is that the win was rightuflly overturned to a no-contest and he spent the rest of the year disappointed he never got a rematch against the former UFC champ. But the time for being big mad is over, and he gets to start anew against powerful wrestleboxer Jamelle Jones (12-7). Jones carries a lot of punching power and some strong takedowns, but can also be pressured and boxed up against the fence. This should still be a tightly contested bout regardless.
Denis Goltsov (27-7) remains a crafty veteran with the tools to get quite far in the heavyweight tournament, and he’ll start off his year against 32-year-old Cody Goodale. Goodale is an 8-5 fighter that cut his teeth on the California regionals and who previously faced the aforementioned Jamelle Jones, whom he lost to. His last bout was a win over Conway Beaudry, who was 0-8 at the time. Make of that what you will.
Ante Delija (19-5) is still one of the most exciting names in PFL, and he welcomes Mattheus Scheffel (15-7) to the PFL ranks. Bubba Jenkins (16-5) turned a lot of heads last year with his upset win over Lance Palmer, and looks to impress this year once again as he starts off against former UFC talent Kyle Bochniak (11-5). Boston Salmon (8-3) is in a duel of fomer UFC strikers against Sheymon Moraes (13-5), and Alejandro “Gallito“ Flores (20-3) looks to leave a mark against German wrestler Saba Bolaghi (14-2, 1 draw).
You can check out the ceremonial weigh-ins here:
Stuart Austin (245.8) vs. Bruno Cappelozza (235)
Lance Palmer (145.8) vs. Chris Wade (146)
Ryoji Kudo (145.4) vs. Brendan Loughnane (146)
Renan Ferreira (260.4) vs. Jamelle Jones (237.4)
Denis Goltsov (247.4) vs. Cody Goodale (253.2)
Ante Delija (247.2) vs. Matheus Scheffel (251.6)
Kyle Bochniak (144.4) vs. Bubba Jenkins (146)
Klidson Abreu (249.2) vs. Adam Keresh (239.6)
Sheymon Moraes (145.2) vs. Boston Salmon (145.4)
Saba Bolaghi (145.4) vs. Alejandro Flores (146)
PFL: Cappelozza vs Austin takes place this Thursday night starting at 6:30pm EST and streaming live exclusively on ESPN+. The main card will be simulcast on ESPN+ and ESPN2 starting at 9:00pm.
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