PFL 2021 #10: Championships Preview

The PFL season comes to a close this Wednesday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Along with the divisional titles at stake, there will be $1m prize money handed out to each champion.

The Championship Bouts:

Lightweight: Kayla Harrison (11-0) vs Taylor Guardado (3-1) – Alternate: Genah Fabian (4-2)

Kayla Harrison is the biggest name on the card. She will become the hottest free agent in the sport following this contest. This fight is likely going to be a squash match. Harrison is a two time Olympic winning judoka. She’ll use that to get the fight to the mat and either snatch an armbar or finish it with ground and pound. Guardado is tough. Starting out as an amateur in 2009, she’s seen it all and faced some very big names along the way. What she does lack is pro experience. She’s a grinding grappler and is decent on the feet, however doesn’t come with much finishing threat. Anything other than a Harrison win would be the biggest shock in MMA history.

Welterweight: Ray Cooper III (23-7-1) vs Magomed Magomedkerimov (29-5) – Alternate: Sadibou Sy (9-6-2)

We have a humdinger on our hands in this one. Cooper III is a must watch fighter. He will be on the offensive from the opening bell until the ref calls it off. His striking volume is high and he can grapple his butt off. When he smells blood, he goes in for the kill. The foe is a familiar one in Magomedkerimov. The Dagestani won that bout via a second round guillotine back in 2018. Magomedkerimov is an elite fighter on a thirteen fight win streak. He has dominated the PFL since his promotional debut in 2016. He has nice combinations on the feet and is a submission specialist from every position. Both men are 30+ fight veterans and are at their peak. Should be a fantastic fight.

Heavyweight: Bruno Cappelozza (13-5) vs Ante Delija (19-4) – Alternate: Denis Goltsov (27-7)

Cappelozza has been a revelation to date in this tournament. He has notched up three highlight reel knockouts on his way to this bout. Delija was on the receiving end of one of those knockouts in the first round. The Croatian bounced back with a brace of wins to make the final. This rematch is likely going to be similar. Both men are going to walk forward and swing for the fences. Whoever hits cleanest wins. Bombs away.

Featherweight: Movlid Khaybulaev (18-0-1) vs Chris Wade (20-6) – Alternate: Brendan Loughnane (21-4)

Khaybulaev is another elite level Dagestani fighter. Like a lot of others from the region, he has shut out grappling. He’s not afraid to stand and trade, and is always looking to walk you down towards the fence where he can work in his takedowns. From there, he makes you defend strikes and submissions. Wade has found a new lease of life at 145lbs. He is a good wrestler and has shown big improvements in his striking recently. His downside is that he has been susceptible to being taken down in the past. The floor needs to be lava here.

Light Heavyweight: Antônio Carlos Júnior (12-5) vs Marthin Hamlet (8-2) – Alternate: Emiliano Sordi (23-9-1)

Brazil’s Carlos Júnior has looked a lot better since moving up to 205lbs. He is a BJJ black belt and an expert at taking the back and finishing with a rear naked choke. It has been a long time since he scored a TKO win. Denmark’s Hamlet is predominantly a wrestler who likes to do work from top. He’s particularly savvy with arm triangle chokes. His standing is decent, however like his opponent hasn’t scored a knockout in a while. Whoever can get on top in the grappling should get the nod here.

Lightweight: Loik Radzhabov (15-3-1) vs Raush Manfio (14-3) – Alternate: Clay Collard (20-9)

Radzhabov is part of the first wave of Tajikistan fighters making a name for themselves. He trains out of the UFD gym in Düsseldorf, Germany that has produced killer after killer. He’s an exciting, well rounded fighter. He pushes the pace and has the power in his hands to finish it early. He’s also got a very tricky submission game to deal with. Brazil’s Manfio is another well rounded fighter. He’s had three wins so far this season, including impressive scalps in Anthony Pettis and Clay Collard. He’s a very good wrestler and is more than capable standing up.

Non-Championship Bouts:

Lightweight: Claressa Shields (1-0) vs Abigail Montes(2-0)

Shields is back for her sophomore MMA match after successfully winning her debut on week 4. She is up there with Katie Taylor in terms of the best boxers on the planet. She won gold medals at the London and Rio Olympic Games. She is a two time amateur world champion. Once she turned pro, the accolades kept piling up. She has an 11-0 professional record and has won world titles in three different weight classes. She is the only boxer in history to hold the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles in two weight classes simultaneously. Her opponent is Abigail Montes. The Mexican won her last fight via ground and pound. She’s going to try and use her grappling in this one.

Middleweight: Omari Akhmedov (21-6-1) vs Jordan Young (11-2)

Akhmedov is another Dagestani competing on the card and he’s a UFC veteran. He’s predominantly looking to take this to the ground so he can use his submissions, however he does have big power on the feet should the takedown fail. Young is a submission expert. He’s aggressive on top and on bottom and has a submission for every occasion.

Lightweight: Julia Budd (15-3) vs Kaitlin Young (12-11-1)

Canada’s Budd is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA. She’s a former Bellator featherweight champion and an Invicta and Strikeforce veteran. Her biggest strength is her Muay Thai. She likes to pepper her opponents with shots. She’s also a solid grappler who can dominate on the ground. Young is 5-2 in her last seven. She’s known as “The Striking Viking” due to her aggressive Muay Thai style. We could be set for a striking duel in this one.

Lightweight: Don Madge (9-3-1) vs Nathan Williams (13-7)

South Africa’s Madge recently parted ways with the UFC after going 2-0 in the promotion. He’s a very exciting fighter and is blood and thunder on the feet. He does have a submission game, however he certainly likes the standup battle more. Williams is more of a submission artist and will want this to take place on the ground. 

PFL 2021 #10 is live on Wednesday night from 21:30 and is available on ESPN2 and ESPN+ in the USA, on MMA TV (PPV) in the U.K. and on YouTube / Eir Sport (on delay) 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.