PFL 2021 #8: Playoffs Preview

PFL returns on Thursday night with the semi final brackets for the Lightweight and Heavyweight divisions. The action will take place in the smart cage inside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Lightweight Semi-Finals

#2 Kayla Harrison (10-0) vs #3 Genah Fabian (4-1)

Harrison is aiming to make her third tournament final in a row. She is a two time Olympic gold medalist in Judo. Her regular season was flawless, demolishing Mariana Morais and Cindy Dandois within a round. Her game plan will be predictable, she’ll look to take things down and finish with either a submission or ground and pound. New Zealand’s Fabian is a standup striker primarily. She had some success with cage grappling in her opening bout, however must avoid the same positions this time out. She scored a nice TKO finish in her last fight. She will need to score the upset of the year to advance.

#1 Larissa Pacheco (15-4) vs #4 Taylor Guardado (2-1)

Pacheco is an absolute battering ram. Her standup was way too much Julija Pajić and Helena Kolesnyk, winning both in the first round. The Brazilian does have good Jiu Jitsu, however usually doesn’t need it. Guardado is the much less experienced fighter in this one, having had three pro fights and a couple of Invicta tournament exhibition bouts. She’s not much of a finishing threat, however she is a spoiler. She can grind out decisions with her strong wrestling and serviceable striking. Like the main event, it would be surprising not to see Pacheco make the final.

Heavyweight Semi-Finals

#1 Bruno Cappelozza (12-5) vs #4 Jamelle Jones (12-6)

Cappelozza has been one of the finds of the season for PFL. He blew through his opponents to get the top seed with two highlight reel knockouts. He’s not afraid to trade shots and was hurt briefly against Delija. Every shot he throws has bad intentions. Jones was a latecomer to the tournament, looking impressive with a TKO win over UFC veteran Klidson Abreu. There is a high chance of this being a rock em sock em affair. When they win, it’s usually a knockout. When they lose it’s usually a knockout. Bombs away.

#2 Denis Goltsov (27-6) vs #3 Ante Delija (18-4)

Goltsov is a punishing sambo machine. The 6ft5in Russian’s goal is to drag you down and either beat you into submission or choke you out. He’s in great shape so cardio isn’t an issue and is patient in picking his moments. His ground and pound is brutal. Delija is a knockout artist. He will stand and bang with anyone. He likes to take the initiative and be the one making forward movement. The only losses on his record are to great opponents and he is always very game. His biggest challenge will be keeping it standing. Exciting matchup.

Lightweight Non-Tournament Prelims

Kaitlin Young (12-11-1) vs Marina Mokhnatkina (5-2)

Young had a decent run in the regular season, winning a decision and losing the other via a split. She’s one for the “records are for DJs” club having won 5 of her last 7. She is a Muay Thai fighter who is good at mixing up her levels while striking. Mokhnatkina is a newbie to PFL, with her last fight coming under the Bellator banner. She was previously in Fight Nights Global. The Russian is a combat sambo expert and has a fantastic leg lock game. She’ll want this on the deck.

Claudia Zamora (3-1) vs Mariana Morais (17-11)

Zamora is another newcomer to PFL. She’s a well rounded martial artist with a slight preference for the ground game. She gives up a lot of experience in this fight. Morais is a stocky striker with a decent offensive Jiu Jitsu game. The Brazilian is used to facing up-and-coming prospects and will want to use her power to end the party early.

Miranda Barber (1-1) vs Amanda Leve (debut)

Barber is going to try and use her boxing in this one. Leve is a Jiu Jitsu black belt and has competed at the ADCC World Championships so is at an elite level on the deck. This is a chance for both fighters to make an impression for next season.

Christian Lohsen (8-2) vs Jonas Flok (14-5)

Lohsen is a Dana White Contender Season veteran, losing on the night. He is a wrestler with a very good submission game. Flok is an all rounder who is very aggressive fighting off his back. He will throw up armbars and triangles if his shoulders touch the canvas. He has the power to end it on the feet.

Heavyweight Non-Tournament Prelims

Renan Ferreira (7-2) vs Stuart Austin (15-6)

Ferreira was desperately unlucky to miss out on the semi-finals. He had a win against Fabricio Werdum changed to a no contest, meaning his decision win against Carl Seumanutafa didn’t earn him enough points. He is predominantly a striker with dynamite in his hands. He does have Jiu Jitsu as a plan B. Austin is a former BAMMA champion and holds a submission win of the UFC’s Tom Aspinall. He’s a veteran and a threat wherever the fight takes place. He has knockout power and a good submission game.

Carl Seumanutafa (12-13) vs Mo DeReese (8-4)

Seumanutafa is a big Western Samoan who will be hunting for a knockout in this one. The 38 year old has been fighting since 2007. DeReese is a wrestler with big ground and pound. On the feet, he can end it with one shot.

PFL 2021 #8 is live on Thursday night from 22:30 and is available on ESPN and ESPN+ in the USA, on MMA TV (PPV) in the U.K. and on YouTube / Eir Sport in Ireland.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.