Table of Contents
PFL 2023 kicked off their season last night in Las Vegas, NV. There, 22 fighters from the featherweight and light heavyweight divisions faced off for their first chance to win “points” and qualify for this year’s tournament brackets. In the main event, last season’s featherweight winner Brendan Loughnane, took on former UFC bantamweight title contender Marlon Moraes. The night also marked the PFL 2023 debut of former UFC light heavyweight title contender Thiago Santos.
For Moraes this was just the latest in a long series of attempts to get back to winning ways. The Brazilian rose quickly through the ranks of the UFC, after signing with the promotion in 2017. But after a loss to Henry Cejudo in his bid for gold at UFC 238, the American Top Team fighter went on a 1-4 slide, culminating in his exit from the world’s largest MMA promotion (and a very brief retirement).
Unfortunately a change in scene hasn’t righted the ship. Moraes lost via 3rd round TKO to fellow Brazilian Sheymon Moraes in November of last year, in his PFL debut. His first run in the promotion’s regular season hasn’t gone any better, with a second round TKO loss at the hands of Brendan Loughnane.
Despite Moraes coming in with the reputation as a brutally powerful kicker, it was actually the Brit that steered the tone of the action with his legs. The first calf kick he threw notable buckled Moraes’ lead leg. A followup shortly after had the Brazilian in trouble. By the end of the first round, Moraes had already switched stances and been dropped by low kicks alone. The fight didn’t last long into round 2.
Champ Rob Wilkinson spoils Thiago Santos’ PFL 2023 debut
In the co-main event, last year’s light heavyweight season winner ‘Razor’ Rob Wilkinson got off to a decent, if not exactly thrilling start with a three round decision over Thiago Santos. The Brazilian fired a number of hard kicks from distance, but had fewer answers when Wilkinson closed the pocket with punches or takedown attempts. A couple of strong rounds banked for the Aussie were enough to bank him the fight, despite a better third round for Marreta, where he was able to stay on his feet longer and land the harder kicks and punches between bouts of Wilkinson’s cage wrestling offense.
That loss marks the third in a row for the 39-year-old former UFC title contender. Santos exited the UFC on back-to-back defeats against Magomed Ankalaev and current champion Jamahal Hill before announcing his signing with the PFL last fall. For Wilkinson, this is his 7th consecutive victory. The VT1 Gym athlete is unbeaten since a pair of UFC losses in 2017-18 forced his exit from the promotion.
Jotko flounders, Bubba Jenkins punishes Chris Wade
In other main card action, relatively unknown SBG Ireland fighter Will Fleury spoiled both the light heavyweight and PFL 2023 debut of former UFC middleweight Krzysztof Jotko. Fleury, a former Bellator competitor, moved to 12-3 with the split decision win. Jotko dropped to 24-7, having exited the UFC off a loss to Brendan Allen in October of last year.
2021 featherweight tournament champion Movlid Khaybulaev got his 2023 campaign off to a strong start with a three round unanimous decision victory over former Shooto contender Ryoji Kudo. Khaybulaev (20-0-1 1 NC) spent the entirety of 2022 riding the pine, nursing an injury, having beat Brendan Loughnane on the way to his million-dollar prize the year before. Both men appear on track to face off in this year’s PFL 2023 featherweight bracket. For Kudo, the loss took his PFL record to just 1-4 in five attempts, knocking his record down to 11-5-1 overall.
The main card opened with a featherweight grudge match between two former finalists: Bubba Jenkins and Chris Wade. Jenkins and Wade first met under the PFL banner back in 2021, when Wade defeated the former Bellator top prospect via unanimous decision in the semi-final round of that year’s tournament. Wade would go on to lose to Khaybulaev in the finals. Jenkins rallied well though, making it all the way to the tournament finals the next year, only to lose to Brendan Loughnane.
The two men had plenty of bad blood on display in the lead up to this fight, with Jenkins claiming that he wouldn’t even look to wrestle Wade, hoping to punish him with standup instead. That didn’t happen, with a the two men largely engaged in a grappling heavy affair that saw Jenkins pull out a straight forward 30-27 unanimous decision victory.
PFL 2023, event 1 results
Brendan Loughnane def. Marlon Moraes via TKO (low kicks) at 1:11 of Round 2
Rob Wilkinson def. Thiago Santos via UD (29-28×3)
Will Fleury def. Krzysztof Jotko via SD (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Movlid Khaybulaev def. Ryoji Kudo via UD (30-27×3)
Bubba Jenkins def. Chris Wade via UD (30-27×3)
Marthin Hamlet def. Mohammaed Fakhreddine via sub (Face crank) at 1:05 of Round 1
Joshua Silveira def. Sam Kei via Sub (RNC) at 2:46 of Round 1
Alejandro Flores def. Daniel Torres via UD (29-28×3)
Gabriel Alves Braga def. Jesus Pinedo via SD (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Ty Flores def. Delan Monte via UD (29-28×2, 29-27)
Impa Kasanganay def. COry Hendricks via UD (29-28×2, 30-27)
PFL 2023, event 1 highlights
About the author