PFL 2 Preview: Heavyweights & Featherweights

PFL

Tonight the PFL is back with their second event of the 2022 season. The main card starts at 8:00 PM ET on ESPN 2 and on this card we will see the promotion’s heavyweights and featherweights take center stage.

In the main event of the evening, the 2021 PFL heavyweight champion Bruno Cappelozza (14-5) will take on Stuart Austin (15-7). Austin will be making just his second appearance with the PFL tonight.

Last year, he had one appearance where he took on Renan Ferreira and lost by knockout in 31 seconds. His road in the promotion doesn’t get any easier as tonight he takes on the defending champion Bruno Cappelozza.

Capppelozza had a sensational year last year going 4-0 with three knockouts on his way to winning the PFL title. Overall, he’s 7-1 in his last eight fights with the lone loss coming against top UFC contender Jiri Prochazka in RIZIN.

PFL Featherweights

Despite having the defending heavyweight champion on the card, arguably the two most highly anticipated fights come from the featherweight division. In particular, the PFL 2 co-main event has my attention.

In that contest, former featherweight champion Lance Palmer (22-5) will be taking on last year’s runner-up Chris Wade (20-7). 2021 was not kind to Lance Palmer who lost both of his fights in PFL.

He lost his first fight to Bubba Jenkins before losing to Movlid Khaybulaev who would go on to win the PFL title. Khaybulaev is not competing in the 2022 season after suffering an injury which has hindered him from competing in the first half of the season.

Chris Wade had a great run last year going 3-1 which included a win over Bubba Jenkins. He’s hoping to get his 2022 season off to a good start by handing Palmer his third straight loss in the PFL.

Another big fight to watch is the contest between Brendan Loughnane (21-4) and Ryoji Kudo (10-2-1). Like Wade, Loughnane’s only loss in PFL last year was a loss to the eventual champion.

It was a razor close split decision and he’s hoping to be the champion in 2022. His opponent tonight, Kudo, is making his first appearance with the promotion. You can see the full fight card 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.

Fabricio Werdum mulling retirement after missing 2022 PFL Season

One of the most decorated heavyweight fighters of all time is considering hanging it up. PFL‘s Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1, 1 NC) is considering hanging up the gloves and not fighting again after it was revealed that he’s not part of the 2022 heavyweight season.

Entering 2021, one of the biggest PFL acquisitions was Fabricio Werdum. PFL has been really trying to bring in big names to increase the viewership and get a brighter spot light on their promotion.

They have a homegrown star like Kayla Harrison, but we’ve seen them bring in big free agents. Free agents like former UFC champions Werdum and Anthony Pettis. We’ve also seen PFL bring in guys like Rory MacDonald.

However, unfortunately for PFL, none of those free agent signings have really paid off including Werdum. Werdum was considered a favorite heading into the 2021 season. He was coming off of a big win in his final UFC fight against Alexander Gustafsson.

Werdum’s Future in PFL and MMA

Werdum was set to make his PFL debut last May in the third event of the year. Standing across from him was the dangerous Renan Ferreira. The fight was filled with controversy.

When the fight hit the ground, Werdum was able to lock in a deep triangle choke. Ferreira tried fighting it and ultimately tapped twice on Werdum’s shoulder. However, the referee didn’t see the tap.

Werdum eased up on the submission and Ferreira started blasting him with big shots ultimately ending in a TKO. At first it looked like Werdum lost his PFL debut, but the fight was later flipped to a No Contest after replays showed that Ferreira tapped.

It was a very tough break as the fight should have ended with Werdum picking up the first round win. Werdum was booked to return later in the year but withdrew from the fight and said the Ferreira situation had really impacted his motivation to fight.

Apparently, it’s still impacting him as he’s sitting out the PFL season. Werdum to Ag.Fight that he’s strongly considering hanging up the gloves after a 24 year run. He’s competed at the highest level in PFL, UFC, Strikeforce, and Pride.

Werdum has had a tremendous career and if it’s over, he will go down in history as one of the best. Of course, despite being a UFC champion, he will forever be known as the first man to truly defeat the legend Fedor Emelianenko.

PFL Announces 2022 Season Opener

The PFL is gearing up for their 2022 season and we now know that the season has an official kickoff date. The promotion sent out a memo yesterday afternoon announcing that they were returning on April 20th to kick off the 2022 season.

PFL will be kicking off the new season with lightweights and light heavyweights. There are several key bouts to focus in on, but obviously anyone is going to look straight at the main event.

2021 lightweight champion Raush Manfio (15-3) will begin his quest for a second straight title as he takes on Don Madge (10-3-1). Madge will enter the April contest riding a seven-fight winning streak including two wins in the UFC.

Last year, Madge joined the PFL and fought once scoring a submission victory. Manfio went a perfect 4-0 to capture the 2021 title which featured wins over Anthony Pettis, Clay Collard, and Loik Radzhabov in the finals.

Rest of the PFL Opener

Speaking of Anthony Pettis (24-12) and Clay Collard (20-9), they have some big fights in their 2022 season debut. Pettis is in the co-main event as he takes on Ireland’s Myles Price (11-7).

Price hasn’t fought in three years and his last fight came in Bellator where he got a win over fellow Irishman Peter Queally. Pettis is coming off of an extremely disappointing debut season with the PFL.

It was huge news for the PFL to sign a former UFC lightweight champion. However, Pettis went 0-2 in his first season. He’s hoping to bounce back and prove his worth to his new promotion in 2022.

Speaking of making their PFL debuts, former UFC lightweight and featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens (28-19) is making his debut on the card. Like Pettis last year, Stephens will be making his debut against Clay Collard. A lot of eyes will be on that matchup.

2021 light heavyweight champion Antonio Carlos Junior (13-5) kicks off his defense campaign against fellow Brazilian Delan Marte (8-1). You can view the rest of the 2022 season kickoff card here. 

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.

Jeremy Stephens no longer with the UFC; Officially a free agent

Jeremy Stephens

One of the more tenured fighters in the UFC is no longer with the promotion. Today, promotional officials confirmed with MMA Fighting that “Lil Heathen” Jeremy Stephens (28-19, 1 NC) is no longer with the promotion.

Stephens fought out his contract and his deal expired at the end of 2021. With the news today, we know that the UFC is not going to be bringing Stephens back and one of the more entertaining fighters over the last fifteen years is officially a free agent.

Stephens made his UFC debut back in May of 2007 when he fought Din Thomas. He was submitted in that first fight and the loss sent him back to the regional circuit. However, after one more win there, the UFC brought him back.

Once back in the UFC, Stephens won his first two fights including a TKO win over Cole Miller. It’s been quite the run for Stephens inside the octagon. Not many people can say they stay with the promotion as long as Stephens was able to.

Life Post UFC

Some of the highlight moments for Stephens in the UFC included a knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos and a big knockout over current top contender Josh Emmett. However, most of Stephens UFC career will be remembered as a guy who could get close to the top, but couldn’t quite summit the mountain.

Some might only remember him for being the guy who was mocked by Conor McGregor at a press conference. However, Stephens was always a ton of fun to watch in the UFC and he always kept you on the edge of your seat due to his raw power.

Now, he’s moving on. At just 35 years old, Stephens has plenty of fight left in him. I expect him to be pursued by both the PFL and Bellator. However, something tells me that PFL might have the inside track.

PFL is constantly looking to bring in more mainstream guys for their seasons. Stephens would bring in really solid name recognition and he has a great history with the UFC. He would be a very exciting addition to the 2022 lightweight season.

Time will tell, but this is definitely not he last we’ve seen of Jeremy Stephens.

Anthony Pettis returning to PFL for 2022 season

Late in 2020, PFL made waves when they signed former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (24-12). The UFC had tried to resign Pettis earlier in 2020, but Pettis decided to bet on himself and fight out the remainder of his contract.

Pettis won back-to-back fights against Donald Cerrone and Alex Morono to close out his UFC run. Almost immediately, PFL was in contact with Pettis and his reps about a potential deal. The deal came together very quickly and within days, Pettis was joining the PFL.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the 2021 lightweight season due to the addition of Pettis. Many betting platforms actually pegged Pettis as the betting favorite to be the 2021 lightweight champion. However, the first season didn’t go as planned for “Showtime”.

In his first bout of the season, Pettis took on Clay Collard. Pettis had his moments in the fight including hurting Collard bad with a head kick in the third round, however it wasn’t enough. Collard got out too far ahead of Pettis in the first couple of rounds and won a decision.

After that fight, Pettis took on Raush Manfio with a chance to go to the playoffs. However, Pettis again couldn’t get the win and was eliminated from the PFL playoffs. After all the hype, Pettis closed out his first season at 0-2.

2022 PFL Season

After the season was over, many wondered what Pettis would do moving forward. Would he re-up with the PFL or would he try his hand with another promotion. Well, yesterday we got our answer. Pettis has been teasing it on Twitter, but it was confirmed yesterday.

MMA Fighting was the first to confirm that Pettis will be in the 2022 PFL lightweight season. The former UFC champion will give it another go after a tough first year with the promotion. I still believe that Pettis can accomplish great things in the PFL.

Pettis has a lot to prove this year and I think that’s another reason why he returned for the 2022 season. We will all have to watch and see if he’s able to turn things around and perhaps become a world champion in the PFL.