Table of Contents
PFL’s 2023 season pivots to lightweight and welterweight this week, with the opening round for both tournaments set to deliver some interesting action. Fans will see a fair number of familiar faces, including a main event bout between UFC vets Shane Burgos and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. There are some solid newcomers as well, even if some of them have have a lot of question marks.
Overall, this week’s PFL card should deliver a lot of fresh matchups and big opportunities. Not only for action, but for fighters looking to make a strong start to the season and steal a spot in the tournament. Add to that the fact that these have so far been two of the toughest divisions to predict and make picks for, and we’ve got a compelling event on a Friday night.
The welterweights (feat. Sadibou Sy)
Last year’s champion, Sadibou Sy (13-6, 2 draws, 1 no contest), didn’t have any spectacular finishes in 2022, but managed to win four straight by decision to snatch the million dollar prize. That included victories over Carlos Leal and Rory MacDonald in a stunning upset. The Swede employs rangy strikes and a lot of clinchwork while he avoids damage.
His first task will be to welcome Jarrah Al-Silawi back for his second year in PFL. Al-Silawi (18-4) started great last year in his PFL debut with the PFL Challenger series where he picked off Michael Lilly with lovely timing. A split decision win over Gleison Tibau followed, but his hopes were dashed with a loss to Magomed Umalatov. He’s got great fundamental striking and doesn’t waste time off failed takedown defense.
Also on the card are 2021 tournament finalist Magomed Magomedov, taking on Ben Egli. Magomedov went undefeated last season in the PFL, but failed to qualify for the tournament as he only had one regular season bout due to a pair of cancelled fights against Joao Zeferino. Magomedov did get to compete on the season finale card, defeating Gleison Tibau by decision. He’ll be facing 14-4 PFL newcomer Ben Egli and will likely be a heavy favorite to beat the Oregon based fighter with his grinding wrestling attack.
The postlims portion of the event also includes welterweight bouts between Shane Mitchell (13-4) & Nayib Lopez (15-0), as well as Zach Juusola (13-9) vs. Brandon Jenkins (16-9). Down on the main card, recent UFC release David Zawada (18-7) takes on Carlos Leal (17-4). Leal was a breakthrough talent in last year’s PFL season, winning two bouts on the Challenger Series, before picking up a decision over Ray Cooper III that saw him qualify for the welterweight tournament—where he unfortunately ran into season winner Sadibou Sy.
Magomed Umalatov (12-0) will take on Dilano Taylor (10-3). Umalatov qualified for last year’s tournament but visa issues kept him out of the competition. Taylor stepped in to compete in his place, taking on Rory MacDonald, with Taylor scoring a stunning upset TKO in the opening round. Should make for a thrilling bout to open this year’s season.
The Lightweights (feat. Shane Burgos)
Shane Burgos (15-3) is the featured attraction in the lightweight bracket. The former UFC featherweight will take on Oivier Aubin-Mercier (17-5) in the card’s main event. OAM’s size and grappling combination could make for tough going for Shane Burgos, fighting up a division from his natural weight class, but it feels like ‘Hurricane’ Shane should be the favorite here after leaving the UFC on back to back wins.
Aubin-Mercier will, however, enter the fight with his own head of steam, having claimed the $1 million lightweight prize last year, with a second round KO over Stevie Ray in the finals. The Canadian is unbeaten since leaving the UFC on three-straight losses in 2019, with six wins in a row under the PFL banner.
On the postlims, 2019 PFL tournament winner Natan Schulte (23-5-1) will look to kick off this season on the right foot against 2022 finalist Stevie Ray (25-11). Schulte has started each of the last two seasons with a loss, dropping a unanimous decision to Marcin Held at PFL 1 in 2021, and a split decision to OAM at PFL 1 in 2022.
Ray’s 2022 season didn’t start any better, with a decision loss to Alexander Martinez. But a submission win over Anthony Pettis was enough to grab the last qualifying spot in the lightweight tournament, where Ray beat Pettis again to make the finals. He’ll be a significant underdog against Schulte, who was last seen choking the life out of Jeremy Stephens in the 2022 season finale undercard.
2021 tournament winner Raush Manfio (16-4) is also back for the 2023 season. The Brazilian failed to make the playoffs last year after scoring a second round submission over Don Madge, and losing a decision to OAM. He’ll take on Alex Martinez (10-3), who failed to capitalize on his wins over Ray and Clay Collard last year, with a first round tournament exit via Aubin-Mercier.
Other bouts include Clay Collard (21-10) vs. Yamato Nishikawa (21-3-6) and Bruno Miranda (14-3) vs. Ahmed Amir (12-3-1).
You can check out the weigh-ins right here:
- Sadibou Sy (171) vs. Jarrah Al-Silawi (170.8)
- Magomed Magomedkerimov (171) vs. Ben Egli (170.2)
- Raush Manfio (155.8) vs. Alexander Martinez (170.4)
- Shane Mitchell (171.0) vs. Nayib Lopez (170.4)
- Bruno Miranda (156.0) vs. Ahmed Amir (155.0)
- Zach Juusola (170.8) vs. Brandon Jenkins (170.6)
- Natan Schulte (155.6) vs. Stevie Ray (155.8)
Shane Burgos vs. OAM Main card
- Olivier Aubin-Mercier (155.4) vs. Shane Burgos (156.0)
- Clay Collard (154.4) vs. Yamato Nishikawa (153.4)
- Denis Goltsov (245.4) vs. Cezar Ferreira (215.8)
- Carlos Leal (168.8) vs. David Zawada (170.6)
- Magomed Umalatov (170.4) vs. Dilano Taylor (169.0)
PFL 2023 #3: Shane Burgos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier takes place this Friday night with the prelims streaming live on ESPN+, followed by the main card being simulcast on ESPN+
About the author