PFL 5: Are these auditions for Francis Ngannou?

PFL 5 brings heavyweights and women's featherweights to Atlanta, and we're in for some very fun action.

By: Victor Rodriguez | 3 months ago
PFL 5: Are these auditions for Francis Ngannou?
Will Francis Ngannou be playing close attention to PFL 5?

PFL 5 takes place this week, as PFL is keeping the party going in Atlanta. This event will sort out the heavyweight and women’s featherweight divisions with a great specialty showcase for good measure. Basically, it’s keeping in tune with most of the competitors from PFL 2 in April.

Another item of note is that PFL 5 features two champions from last year’s tournament in some pretty tough matchups. The fields haven’t changed that much from last year, but the matchmaking is fine.

Walking Trouble goes for double

2022 champion Ante Delija (23-5) is back for PFL 5, finally making his 2023 debut. He was scheduled to meet Yorgan De Castro back in April at PFL 2, but withdrew from that bout. Now he’s up against De Castro’s teammate Maurice Greene (11-7). Greene’s got range and toughness, but isn’t as spry an athlete nor does he pack the kind of power that threatens Delija.

So Delija should be a clear favorite here, but that’s not to say this will be a cakewalk. Greene may be 3-5 in his last 8, but he may be making improvements in his new stomping grounds training with UFC champion Jon Jones. He did earn a win against Marcelo Nunes back in April, after all.

Delija has been identified as the ideal fighter to welcome Francis Ngannou to the PFL, by none other than Randy Couture. Delija should be so lucky, if it’s true that any of Ngannou’s PFL opponents stand to receive a multi-million dollar purse. That detail in Ngannou’s contract makes us think that any heavyweight showing in PFL from this point on could be an audition for that big pay day against who was, until recently, the biggest MMA free agent in history.

PFL 5 fighters run through Media Day.

Pacheco keeps on rolling

Larissa Pacheco (20-4) turned in a good performance against Julia Budd back in April, and has the quick turnaround to take on hard-hitting Amber Leibrock (7-4). Leibrock had a great start to her pro career in Invicta and hit a bit of a snag in Bellator. After a pair of tune-ups in Gladiator Challenge (yes, I know) she bounced back and is doing major damage again with a renewed sense of confidence and some great finishes.

April 7, 2023: Featherweight Larissa Pacheco throws a punch at Julia Budd during their PFL 2 Regular Season Fight Night at The Theater inside the Virgin Hotel on April 7, 2023 in Las Vegas, NV. CSM. Las Vegas United States of America - ZUMAc04_ 20230407_zaf_c04_271 Copyright: xChristopherxTrimx
Larissa Pacheco when she fought Julia Budd. IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

For her part, Pacheco is still in her prime right now. Her takedown defense is greatly improved, and that knockout power isn’t going anywhere. She earned a decision win in April against Julia Budd. She should still be the major favorite to win it all again this year, especially with former queen Kayla Harrison out of the picture. Another win at PFL 5 should move her along in the standings, and a finish should land her comfortably to the playoffs.

Leibrock already has a win this season, the sensational headkick to punches finish linked to above. That one has her at the top of the leaderboard at the moment, so a win for her at PFL 5 keeps her ahead of the pack comfortably with or without a finish unless Marina Mokhnatkina gets a finish. That’s still a scenario where Leibrock gets to the playoffs.

That Ali train keeps pushing forward

Biagio Ali Walsh (3-1) has been another talent that PFL has been fostering for development, and that’s a great thing. I’m calling it right now: Biaggio might be the best thing PFL’s got cooking in the prospect pot, and he’s netting results in the cage. He’s not just Muhammad Ali’s grandson, he’s his own guy. And he’s looking pretty damn good. He faces 3-2 Travell Miller in what should be a showcase fight. And that’s fine, this is the kind of experience level his opponents should have at this stage.

The way Biaggio is fighting, he’s can’t-miss TV right now.

The women’s division

PFL has always had a bit of an uneven field when it comes to the women’s roster, having only one weight class and being built largely around Kayla Harrison. Harrison isn’t in the tournament this year, and the shift has gone from lightweight to featherweight.

Now the field is a bit more even, although some of the experience gaps are still a bit pronounced. Sambo champ Marina Mokhnatkina (9-3) got a nice TKO win over Yoko Higashi in her last outing, and now takes on American Top Team rep Evelyn Martins (5-0). Former Bellator champ Julia Budd (16-6) meets Martina Jindrova (6-4), and former UFC and Invicta talent Aspen Ladd (10-4) is up against Karolina Sobek (4-1).

The heavyweights are actually fun

One thing you can’t knock PFL for is that the heavyweight division is actually capable of being exciting and delivering on action. Denis Goltsov (30-7) is a certified finisher, and is already a top player in the standings after a finish over Cezar Ferreira in April. He’s up against former UFC fighter Yorgan De Castro (9-4). Mattheus Scheffel (17-9) suffered a crushing loss at the hands of former champ Bruno Cappelozza, but that was overturned to a no-contest after Cappelozza tested positive for a banned substance.

That led to Scheffel being awarded 3 points, and he’s going to need a finish to stay alive in this thing as he faces Renan Ferreira. You may remember Ferreira as the fighter that had the massive upset win over former UFC champ Fabricio Werdum, which was overturned to a no-contest over some tapping shenanigans. After a loss earlier this year to Rizvan Kuniev, his back is against the wall as well.

Also on tap is an all-Brazil battle between Danilo Marques (14-4) and Marcelo Nunes (9-2).

PFL 5 takes place this Friday night starting at 6:30pm EST, and all viewing information is available here.

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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