PFL 3 Preview: Kayla Harrison returns to defend her crown

MMA, PFL

Tomorrow night the PFL returns for their third event of the 2022 season. Featured tomorrow night will be the women’s lightweights and the welterweights. However, there is on lightweight fight on the main card on ESPN2.

In the main event of the evening, Kayla Harrison (12-0) is back as she looks to win her third PFL championship in a row. Standing in her way in this opening round contest is Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).

The Russian fought once in PFL last year picking up a decision win. Prior to that, she fought twice in Bellator, but she’s going to have the toughest fight of her career tomorrow night in fighting Kayla Harrison.

Kayla Harrison might be the best female fighter on the planet. She became a free agent after winning the PFL championship last year and the promotion pulled out all the stops to keep her. Now, she’s back and she’s a huge favorite to win the lightweight championship again.

PFL 3 Preview

Another defending PFL champion is in the co-main event and that’s defending welterweight champion Ray Cooper III (24-7-1). Cooper was sensational last year in capturing his second consecutive PFL championship.

Like Harrison, Cooper is looking for his third straight season title and he kicks off tomorrow against Carlos Leal (16-3). Leal comes into PFL 3 riding an impressive 10-fight winning streak. The last two wins have come this year in the PFL challenger series. He’s poised to give Cooper a challenge tomorrow night.

Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (24-12) will also be making his season debut tomorrow in the lightweight division. After his first fight got pushed back, Showtime returns as he takes on Ireland’s Myles Price (11-7).

Pettis was a huge signing for PFL but failed to live up to expectations in 2021. The former UFC champ went 0-2 in his lone two fights last year. Now, he’s more focused than ever as he looks to make a statement in the lightweight division.

Also on the card is Rory MacDonald (22-8-1). Like Pettis, MacDonald had an underwhelming first season with PFL going 1-2 in three fights. He takes on Brett Cooper (28-15) tomorrow night as he looks to redeem himself.

After signing with PFL and making her debut last year, Julia Budd (16-3) is on the card tomorrow taking on Genah Fabian (4-2). Budd is a former Bellator champion and she’s expected to give Harrison the biggest challenge this year.

The rest of the PFL 3 card can be viewed in the tweet below.

UFC’s Julianna Pena blasts PFL’s Kayla Harrison for fighting “Tomato Cans”

The UFC‘s bantamweight champion Julianna Pena (11-4) is not a big fan of PFL‘s Kayla Harrison (12-0). A lot of this stems from Pena’s win over Amanda Nunes that came back in December when she captured the bantamweight title.

Harrison was in attendance and was visibly upset after the matchup. The general thought was that Pena’s win likely derailed a potential UFC contract for Harrison as the super-fight between Nunes and Harrison lost it’s luster with Nunes’ loss to Pena.

Harrison was a free agent after capturing her second PFL title and the UFC was interested. She came out and said that she could beat Julianna Pena with one arm chopped off after Pena defeated Nunes. Harrison also said that she would think about dropping to 135 pounds for that fight.

Now, Harrison has further clarified that the comment regarding bantamweight was more tongue and cheek. Nevertheless, she got the UFC champion’s attention and Pena pulled no punches. Pena appeared on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani earlier this week and she made it clear how she feel’s about the PFL star.

UFC vs PFL

The UFC champion said, “How easy is it to say that you’ll beat Julianna with one-hand tied behind your back then turn around and sign a seven-year deal with the PFL. It’s easy to talk shit when you know nothing is going to happen. She just signed her life away to the PFL. Best of luck with that, make your career off of beating tomato cans, that’s great.”

The message was strong and very clear from the champion. I want to come right out and say that I’m a fan of Kayla Harrison. She’s a star in the PFL for a reason and I’m a big fan. That being said, there’s really nothing wrong about what Julianna Pena said in regards to the competition level.

Let’s be honest, Kayla Harrison has no challenges in the PFL. Sure, they signed Julia Budd. However, she’s not fighting Cris Cyborg. She’s not fighting Amanda Nunes. The competition level is just not there and because of that, she’s likely never going to get the shine that she could if she was in Bellator or the UFC.

Now, you can point to Cyborg and Nunes’ current competition at 145 pounds in their promotions. That’s a fair point, however, they did get those big fights against the biggest names throughout their career. Their legacies are set in stone, meanwhile Harrison is still trying to build hers in the PFL.

Unless PFL makes big signings, Harrison is going to go undefeated in her career, but she’ll never be looked at as one of the very best to ever do it. The resume will be lacking compared to someone like Amanda Nunes or even Julianna Pena.

PFL announces welterweight and women’s lightweight season opener

MMA, PFL

The PFL announced today their third event of the 2022 season which will feature the kickoff for women’s lightweight and welterweight. The event will take place on May 6th on ESPN.

In the main event, PFL superstar Kayla Harrison (12-0) will start her quest for a third straight season championship. In her season debut she will be taking on Russia’s Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).

Harrison was the biggest story over the past few months in terms of MMA free agency. At one point, it appeared that Harrison was destined to go to a new home, however, the PFL came forward with an offer that she couldn’t turn down.

Now, she will begin the quest for a third championship. Mokhnatkina will be making her second appearance with the promotion after debuting last August. She’s coming off of two straight wins as she enters this lightweight contest against Harrison.

Rest of PFL 3

Another noteworthy fight in the women’s lightweight division features the PFL season debut for Julia Budd (16-3). The former Bellator featherweight champion will be taking on Genah Fabian (4-2).

Fabian went 2-1 last season with the lone loss coming against Kayla Harrison. Many are already anticipating a lightweight finale this year featuring Harrison and the former Bellator champion.

In terms of the welterweights, Ray Cooper (24-7-1). will be looking to capture his third PFL championship and he will debut this year against the undefeated Magomed Umalatov (11-0). Cooper is coming off a sensational season that was capped off with his knockout win over Magomed Magomedkerimov.

Umalatov will be making the walk for the third time with the PFL. He won two fights in 2021 which included a knockout over Kyron Bowen. Rory MacDonald (22-8-1) is also on the card on May 6th as he takes on Brett Cooper (28-15).

Worth noting that the lightweight contest between Anthony Pettis and Myles Price has also been moved to this PFL 3 card. You can see the full card in the tweet below.

Kayla Harrison signs multi-year deal with the PFL

MMA, PFL

The hottest free agent on the MMA market has signed a new deal and she is staying with the PFL. The promotion announced today that Kayla Harrison (12-0) has signed a new multi-year deal that is expected to make her one of the highest paid fighters in the world.

For months, we’ve all wondered where Kayla Harrison would end up. After capturing her second PFL season championship, Harrison announced that she would be testing the open market. Both the UFC and Bellator were interested in bringing her in.

We saw her get the camera treatment with both promotions. The UFC was interested in bringing her in to fight Amanda Nunes, however, Nunes losing to Julianna Pena cooled off the talks. From there, it became a race between the PFL and Bellator.

PFL Deal Done

At one point a few weeks ago, it was thought that Harrison resigning with the PFL was a done deal. PFL was trying to secure a new network deal and they needed to get Harrison back in the fold. However, once they signed their ESPN deal without Harrison, they took their foot off the gas.

That is when Bellator really started to ramp things up. Bellator was interested in bringing in Harrison to have a super-fight with Cris Cyborg. They started to seem like the favorite until last week. Last week, the PFL decided to really up their offer and surpass what Bellator was offering.

Harrison appeared on the MMA Hour yesterday with Ariel Helwani and teased that an announcement would be coming soon. She also expressed her frustrations that her window of fighting the best in the world is coming to a close. When she said that, it really felt like the writing was on the wall.

To be considered the best, Harrison needs to fight Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg. With signing this extension with PFL, she’s not going to get to fight either. However, she is getting a huge bag and security for her and her kids. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing and Harrison made the right call.

Kayla Harrison appears likely to resign with the PFL

MMA, PFL

It looks like the hottest free agent in MMA is going to be returning to the PFL. Last year, Kayla Harrison (12-0) continued her perfect run of dominance in the promotion when she captured her second season championship.

It was widely known that Harrison’s contract was up after the 2021 season. After that, Harrison began being courted by all major MMA promotions. The UFC and Bellator both hosted Harrison at their events.

The UFC even gave Harrison the camera treatment at UFC 269 and Dana White hinted at interest in booking her against Amanda Nunes. However, when Nunes lost to Julianna Pena at UFC 269, the UFC’s interest didn’t seem as high.

The promotion was still very interested, but they weren’t at the top of the market. From the beginning, PFL has been coming with the biggest financial offers. Considering Harrison’s place in life and her priorities as a new mom, many considered PFL to be the favorite.

However, that changed last month. PFL resigned with ESPN and upon doing so, they backed off a bit on their efforts to resign Harrison. That’s when Bellator started becoming a very viable option for the top free agent.

Harrison’s PFL return imminent?

Bellator was offering two things that the PFL really couldn’t offer Harrison last month. They were offering her a big financial package and they were offering her the chance to further her legacy by taking on one of the best of all time in Cris Cyborg.

However, after seeing everything unfold, PFL has once again upped their offer per Ariel Helwani. Helwani reported yesterday that the industry expectation is that Harrison will resign with PFL in the coming days. I’m told the deal is likely just going to be for the 2022 season.

Now, one interesting thing to watch out for is Cris Cyborg. The Bellator featherweight champion’s contract is up this year. PFL made a run at her in her last free agency trip but ultimately lost out to Bellator. Perhaps, PFL makes a more serious run this time around to book the Harrison – Cyborg superfight.

I still think personally that the UFC is in Harrison’s future. However, it’s a timing thing and for this place in time, Harrison will remain with the PFL.

UFC still in play for Kayla Harrison after PFL talks stall out

MMA, PFL

In the last couple of weeks, it looked like Kayla Harrison (12-0) would be resigning with PFL and wouldn’t be signing with the UFC. After appearing at UFC 269 and after Amanda Nunes left American Top Team, it seemed like things were trending towards Harrison ending up in the UFC.

However, Ariel Helwani then reported that a deal between Harrison and the PFL was on the goal line. Helwani would say on his show The MMA Hour, that it was a done deal. Harrison’s reps also came out and said that the PFL was the favorite to resign her.

However, everything has suddenly changed. Helwani reported last week that the talks between Harrison and PFL had stalled out. They had stalled to the point where they are likely no longer favored to bring back Harrison. They are still in the running, but the UFC is right there now.

Will Harrison sign with the UFC?

Bellator doesn’t seem to be in the running so it seems like this will ultimately come down to the UFC or the PFL. Harrison admitted to ESPN that a lot of her decision will come down to what she wants. Without directly saying it, Harrison hinted that the legacy move would be going to the UFC.

This is the same decision that Michael Chandler made. However, if she wants the most guaranteed money per fight, the PFL is likely the best move. That said, the UFC can open so many more doors for Harrison including analysts gigs and a much bigger platform.

Adding to the intrigue, Harrison said that she’s considering a future move down to bantamweight. Previously, Harrison said there would be no way that she could fight at 135 pounds. However, she’s hiring a number of people who will assist her in trying to make that happen. If she wants to fight at 135, she’s going to the UFC.

There are a ton of big fights for Harrison in the UFC is she’s able to make bantamweight. I think we are getting closer to a final decision and I would say it’s 50/50 right now between the PFL and UFC.

Does Amanda Nunes leaving ATT signal the UFC is the favorite for Kayla Harrison?

MMA, PFL

Yesterday we learned some interesting news regarding the UFC women’s featherweight champion Amanda Nunes (21-5). Nunes is leaving American Top Team to start her own team in Florida after falling short and losing her bantamweight title back at UFC 269.

Nunes completely changed her career around when she started training with ATT. The news was stunning to many, but perhaps it signals a potential superfight down the road. It’s widely known that Kayla Harrison (12-0) has been one of Nunes’ main training partners at ATT.

Harrison is currently a free agent and she’s being courted by the UFC, Bellator, and PFL. However, many speculate that the UFC is the front runner. In speaking to a few folks, some believe that a Harrison signing could happen in the next week or two.

Harrison attended UFC 269 and watched Nunes take on Julianna Pena (11-4). Nunes was a massive favorite and Harrison was getting the free agent treatment. The UFC even featured her on the big screen which only occurs when the promotion is seriously interested.

However, there were questions surrounding whether Harrison and Nunes would fight considering they train together. Nunes losing to Pena also threw a wrench in that potential plan. Dana White admitted he was interested in that fight. Well, Nunes leaving ATT clears one hurdle for the UFC making the fight happen.

Will Harrison sign with the UFC?

Amanda Nunes has no competition currently in the featherweight division. Harrison would provide a massive challenge and it would make for a very compelling fight at 145 pounds. My guess is that the UFC is making a push to sign Harrison and I think they will ultimately get a deal done.

Does that mean the super fight is going to happen? I don’t believe so. The UFC is currently working on booking the rematch between Amanda Nunes and Julianna Pena. The immediate rematch needs to take place after Pena shocked the world and took the title from Nunes.

My guess is that the UFC would like to get Harrison in and get her a fight with the promotion. Perhaps booking her against someone like Holly Holm. While Holly Holm is certainly no pushover, I think she would struggle with the grappling skills and strength of Harrison.

On the flip side, Holm would be the first legitimate test for Harrison. Around the same time or even perhaps on the same card, the UFC could book the rematch between Nunes and Pena. If Nunes and Harrison both were to win, the superfight would be back on and the hype would have restored after hitting a speed bump in December.

Time will tell, but I’m expecting a Harrison to sign soon and I’m expecting it to be with the UFC.

UFC Predictions: Women champions after 2022

2021 was an incredible year for the women’s divisions in the UFC. We saw some tremendously dominating performances and some historic upsets. In thinking about the year, the first fight that comes to mind is the bantamweight title fight that took place at UFC 269.

The fight took place just weeks ago between Julianna Pena (11-4) and Amanda Nunes (21-5). Nunes was a monster favorite given her status at the two-division UFC champion. Nobody was really giving Julianna Pena a chance outside of Julianna Pena herself.

Well, Pena did exactly what she said she was going to do and shocked the world to become UFC bantamweight champion. 2021 also saw the return of “Thug” Rose Namajunas (11-4) to the top of the mountain. It happened back at UFC 261 when she knocked out Zhang Weili to regain the strawweight title.

She affirmed her status at the top of the mountain by defeating Weili in an immediate rematch in November. Then of course, 2021 featured the pure brilliance and dominance of the queen, Valentina Shevchenko (22-3). Shevchenko defended her title twice and won both fights by dominant stoppage.

2022 is shaping up to be another big year for the women’s divisions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four divisions and make predictions for who will be UFC champion at the end of the year.

UFC 2022 Predictions

Strawweight

The first division we are looking at is the strawweight division. Currently, Rose Namajunas is on top of the division. She has her first opponent lined up for the year, we just don’t know which date they will be fighting. Up first for Namajunas is Carla Esparza (18-6).

These two met in the first ever strawweight title fight with Esparza getting the win. However, both of these fighters are much different now and I truly believe that Namajunas is on another level. I think she’s going to easily retain her UFC title in the rematch.

Then, Namajunas will have her toughest test in my opinion. I believe her second title fight is going to come against Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2). Rodriguez is setup for a title eliminator in the first part of the year and I believe she’s going to get the job done.

After that, I’m expecting her to get a title fight. Given her style, she can really give Namajunas problems. However, I still really like “Thug” Rose’s overall game and I think Trevor Wittman will figure out a game plan to keep her UFC title.

Champion: Rose Namajunas 

Flyweight and Bantamweight

Next up, I believe we are going to see another two-division UFC champion rise up in 2022. That champion will be Valentina Shevchenko. Let me get this out of the way quickly, nobody is touching her at 125 pounds. Nobody will come close to dethroning her at flyweight and there’s really nothing to discuss.

My bold prediction is her capturing the bantamweight title. Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes are expected to run things back sometime in late spring. I believe that Nunes is going to regain her bantamweight title. However, I’m not sure she’s going to fight at 135 pounds again after beating Pena.

If she stays at 135, I think the UFC will finally do the trilogy with Shevchenko. If they do, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Now, let’s say that Nunes vacates the bantamweight title after winning it back. If she does, I think the UFC does the rematch with Pena and Shevchenko at 135 pounds.

Just like the first time, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Obviously if Pena wins, I still see the Shevchenko fight happening. This will be the year that Valentina moves up and captures a second world title.

Champion: Valentina Shevchenko

Featherweight – Amanda Nunes

The last division to discuss is the featherweight division. Let’s be honest, there’s no competition for Amanda Nunes currently at 145 pounds so by default, she’s going to be my pick for the featherweight division. Now, the potential add of Kayla Harrison (12-0) could make things very interesting.

The two-time PFL champion and Olympic Gold Medalist is being courted by all the major promotions. She’s Nunes’ teammate but has already said that she would fight Nunes for the UFC title to further her legacy. While not confirmed, the UFC’s original plan was to have Harrison face Nunes had Nunes won at UFC 269.

Of course, all that went out the window after Nunes lost. That said, if Harrison signs with the UFC, she will be getting a title shot in 2022. Her skillset and strength could give Nunes a ton of problems especially if Nunes isn’t in peak cardio shape.

However, with so many questions surrounding the free agency of Harrison, I’m still going to go with Nunes as the featherweight champion.

Champion: Amanda Nunes

With UFC decision looming, Kayla Harrison issues a warning to Julianna Pena

MMA, PFL

Last weekend at UFC 269, we saw one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Julianna Pena (11-4) shocked the world when she dethroned Amanda Nunes (21-5) and became the bantamweight champion of the world.

However, it wasn’t just the fact that Pena beat Nunes, it was the way she beat her. Pena stood toe-to-toe with Nunes in the pocket and backed the champion down. Nunes was forced to clinch and Pena threw her to the ground.

Once there, Pena was able to get her back and submit her. The result sent shock waves throughout the UFC audience. One member of the audience who was especially upset was the hottest free agent on the MMA scene, Kayla Harrison (12-0).

The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and PFL champion was there to watch her teammate Amanda Nunes. However, Harrison is also being courted by the UFC and was given the free agent camera treatment.

The promotion has expressed interest in booking Harrison against Nunes at 145 pounds. Dana White said after UFC 269 that a bout between Nunes and Harrison would be one of the biggest fights in women’s MMA history.

However, that’s been put on ice for the moment due to Nunes’ shocking loss. Pena was asked about Harrison this week and she labeled the PFL champion the lesser of the two referring to her and Nunes.

Harrison didn’t take kindly to those comments and she made that clear on Ariel Helwani’s MMA hour. She made it clear that if she signs with the UFC, Pena needs to watch where she steps.

Will Harrison sign with the UFC?

Harrison made it clear that Pena needs to watch what she says because she’s not one to just talk about things. She also said that she could beat Julianna Pena with one arm taken away.

Should Harrison sign with the UFC, she would be fighting at 145 pounds. Pena has never expressed interest in moving up, in fact, she’s talked about even trying to make 125 pounds to fight Valentina Shevchenko.

However, her talk of Harrison this week makes me wonder if she’d ever think of competing up in weight. If she did, Kayla Harrison would be glad to take that fight. Currently, Harrison is trying to decide where she wants to sign.

The UFC, Bellator, and PFL are all making plays to sign Harrison. She told Helwani yesterday that PFL is making the biggest financial offer which should come as no surprise. PFL has made her a start and they can’t afford to lose her.

However, she also knows that the UFC and Bellator contain a higher level of competition. She said she’s currently weighing her options factoring in compensation as well as her legacy.

When this free agency began, I thought she might end up in Bellator or resigning with PFL. However, I’m really starting to think she’s leaning towards the UFC and ultimately, I think she ends up in the octagon.

With that being said, Julianna Pena might have to see Harrison at some point.

Is Kayla Harrison UFC bound?

MMA, PFL

We are getting closer and closer to finding out where Kayla Harrison (12-0) will be fighting next and it could be the UFC. Harrison attended UFC 269 this past weekend where she watched Amanda Nunes take on Julianna Pena.

While Harrison is teammates with Nunes, the general thought was that Harrison could face Nunes at featherweight should Nunes get past Pena. This would be a superfight for women’s MMA and the UFC was very interested in making it happen.

Harrison was in the front row and even received camera treatment from the promotion. However, a giant wrench was thrown into the plans when Julianna Pena did the unthinkable and submitted Amanda Nunes in the second round of their fight.

A visibly upset Kayla Harrison was seen in the front row following the result. After UFC 269, Dana White said that a potential matchup between Harrison and Nunes would’ve been a massive fight that they were interested in making.

However, given the result, the fight has lost a little luster. Now, Nunes is going to be faced with some questions. Dana White acknowledged that the UFC was in talks with Harrison and he acknowledged it with a smile.

Harrison also said at the MMA awards last week that the UFC took her out to dinner and was recruiting her over.

Is she UFC bound?

Harrison became a superstar under the PFL banner. The former Olympic Gold Medalist has spent the majority of her career with PFL and she is a two-time PFL champion. The promotion is desperately wanting to bring her back.

However, the competition is stiff. Bellator is also interested in bringing Harrison in for a potential superfight with Cris Cyborg. When Cyborg won her last fight, Harrison was in the front row and also got the camera treatment from Bellator.

At first, the UFC seemed on the outside in terms of the interest in Harrison. However, that has changed dramatically over the last week or so. The UFC now appears to be going after Harrison hard and it’s clear why.

Kayla Harrison has superstar written all over her. The UFC is the biggest stage and they can take her to the next level in terms of her career. However, the biggest money fight isn’t as big as it was just days ago.

Nunes is likely going to face off against Julianna Pena again. Perhaps the UFC signs Harrison and books her on the undercard of that PPV. If they both win, people can chalk up this Nunes loss as overconfidence and not being prepared enough.

If Nunes regains her status as double champ and Harrison dazzles in her UFC debut, the fight once again becomes incredibly interesting. While all promotion’s are interested, I definitely think the UFC has the inside track as of now.