PFL (Professional Fighter’s League) switches it up this week with a Friday event, and there’s a lot of familiar faces as well as prospects to watch out for.
Women’s lightweight and men’s welterweight get all the love this week, and the headliner is a rather obvious one. Olympian and three-time champion Kayla Harrison (12-0) has a suitable challenge ahead as she meets former Sambo champion and Fight Nights Global and Bellator vet Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).
Marina suffered back to back losses to Liana Jojua and Janay Harding, yet her grappling remains her bread and butter. And it’s probably the most interesting matchup available for Harrison, who has a spectacular and punishing ground game. Perhaps Marina has the grappling savvy with her defense and setups to fluster Kayla and come out on top, but it’s still going to be a major challenge. The potential for an upset is very much there, even if it’s an uphill battle.
Both fighters do need improvements in the striking department, which needs to be considered. How that influences the fight is going to be essential, but let’s not expect it to stay upright for too long. And if you’re a grappling aficionado, that’s probably a good problem to have.
The most unfortunate thing to happen prior to the event was the battle Ray Cooper III had on the scales. Cooper (24-7, 1 draw) weighed in 5.4lbs over the limit, and as a consequence will be stuck in limbo here. He’s been docked a point for this fiasco, and doesn’t earn any points with a win. KO, sub, or decision, all a win grants him is staying alive and hoping he gets a quick finish in his next outing. Well, that and hoping that the rest of the field doesn’t score more points than him. Cooper missing weight puts him behind the 8-ball as the season opens, and it’s not like he’s facing a pushover, either. His opponent will be Brazilian LFA and Bellator vet Carlos Leal (16-3). Leal hits hard and has faced pretty tough opposition on the Brazilian circuit. Some of it has been a bit inconsistent, but the guy is very legit. Cooper has some higher-level experience, but it’ll be tough to tell how he’ll recover from a botched weight cut and how it’ll affect his performance.
Former UFC champ Anthony Pettis (24-12) is back, and he’s featured in the lone men’s lightweight bout of the week. His opponent? Ireland’s Myles Price (11-7), who can pack a punch but has a spotty record. That doesn’t mean that he can’t score the upset and get a massive feather in his cap defeating someone of Pettis’ stature. This is PFL, after all. Upsets are way more frequent than expected here, and Pettis has been somewhat figured out at this stage of his career.
Another former UFC staple is here, as Rory MacDonald (22-8, 1 draw) returns to action after a disappointing 2021 that saw him go 1-2. He meets fellow former Bellator standout Brett Cooper (28-15), who made a major statement against Tyler Hill in his PFL debut last year.
João Zeferino (26-9) has been one of PFL’s most steady competitors with his BJJ acumen, his strong cardio and his rangy striking. However, he’s up against plucky upstart and former Titan FC welterweight champ Dilano Taylor (8-1). Most of his wins in his amateur and professional runs combined have been by stoppage, and he’s a strong athlete despite not having the same level of experience as Zeferino. But as I’ve mentioned above, upsets happen frequently in PFL. It might just happen. Taylor is filling in for Magomed Magomedkerimov, who withdrew from the tournament due to a visa issue.
Former Strikeforce contender and Bellator champion Julia Budd (16-3) meets New Zealand’s Genah Fabian (4-2) in a tough showdown. Budd’s got grindy wrestling and a strong clinch game, while Fabian has dramatically improved striking and great use of range. They both also hit pretty hard, so this has potential. Like Cooper, Fabian also missed weight and thus loses a point and can gain none in the standings on Friday.
Nikolay Aleksakhin (26-6) has an unfortunate 2021 with a no-contest followed by a loss, but hopes to advance in a rematch against Sadibou Sy (9-6, 2 draws), against whom that no-contest took place. That was due to an eyepoke, so this is basically starting back over from scratch. Let’s just hope there’s no corneas being scratched.
Former BRAVE FC champ Jarrah Al-Silhawi (17-3) is on a four-fight win streak including a big win via knee in February’s PFL Challenger series. But that’s gonna be tested, and hard. He’s up against Brazilian iron man Gleison Tibau (36-15). Major experience discrepancy aside, this could be exciting.
Finally, we have Abby Montes (3-0), best remembered for spoiling Claressa Shields’ ambitions to remain undefeated last year. She’s facing former Invicta talent Helena Kolesnyk (5-4).
You can check out the weigh-ins here:
Kayla Harrison (155) vs. Marina Mokhnatkina (154.2) – Lightweight
Ray Cooper III (176.4)** vs. Carlos Leal (169.6) – Welterweight
Anthony Pettis (155.4) vs. Myles Price (154.8) – Lightweight
Rory MacDonald (171) vs. Brett Cooper (169.8) – Welterweight
Larissa Pacheco (155.4) vs. Zamzagul Fayzallanova (153.4) – Lightweight
Dilano Taylor (170.6) vs. Joao Zeferino (170.8) – Welterweight
Julia Budd (154.4) vs. Genah Fabian (160.8)** – Lightweight
Nikolay Aleksakhin (170.2) vs. Sadibou Sy (170.8) – Welterweight
Jarrah Al-Silawi (170) vs. Gleison Tibau (169.6) – Welterweight
Olena Kolesnyk (155.2) vs. Abigail Montes (154) – Lightweight
Martina Jindrova (155.4) vs. Vanessa Melo (155.8) – Lightweight
PFL 2022, Week 3: Harrison vs Mokhnatkina starts this Friday night with prelims starting at 6:00pm EST on ESPN+, and the main card being simulcast on ESPN+ and ESPN2.
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