PFL closes the book on its second year of existence, with complications in their tournament format, odd hiccups and growing pains. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t delivered on action and quality matchups, with even better scouting for international talent this time around.
The women’s lightweight field was perhaps not as dense as it could be, but that’s also more indicative of lesser high-level prospects available in that division overall. Despite that fact, we have now ended up with Judo superstar Kayla Harrison (6-0) in the finals as expected — only this time she’s in a rematch against former UFC talent Larissa Pacheco (13-3). Pacheco lost in their first encounter by decision, and beat Sarah Kaufman, the other expected favorite to reach the finals. Pacheco survived to become the only fighter so far that Harrison couldn’t finish, but Harrison could come for blood in this outing or finally get figured out by the heavy-handed Brazilian.
Ray Cooper III (19-7, 1 draw) almost became the biggest Cinderella story last year, surging from relative obscurity and obliterating Jake Shields twice in a year. Even though he fell short in the finals, he manages to keep blazing ahead in this year’s run. A loss due to strikes to Doomsday Howard was a setback, but his finishes over his cousin Zane Kamaka and “The Action Man” Chris Curtis more than made up for it. This was followed by a draw against Sadibou Sy, but he had netted enough points to advance to the finals.
Standing before him will be UFC, LFA and Combate Americas (yes, really) veteran David Michaud (18-5), who hasn’t let his fear of flying deter him from going anywhere, anytime to find the next challenge. Already 4-1 in 2019 with his LFA win over Christian Aguilera, followed by a loss to Sadibou Sy via body kick. He hasn’t looked back since with a brutal win over Handesson Ferreira followed by decision wins over Glaico França and John Howard. He’s still the wily, scrambly fighter that is hard to hit until he gets into a dogfight, and he’s not shy about engaging, either. This could be the most hard-fought battle of the night.
If you told most people three years ago that Jared Rosholt would be knocking people out and fighting for a title, i’m sure most fans would probably scoff or shrug. But he’s prove he’s improved despite a shaky start to 2019. A TKO at the hands of Denis Goltsov stopped him from having a perfect year, and that was followed by three straight losses including a TKO win over Mo De’Reese. The only thing between him and a cool million is undefeated Ali Isaev, who uses his unreal athleticism and strong wrestling to outwork opponents.
Natan Schulte (19-3, 1 draw) has been one of the other big revelations for PFL, hustling in 2019 just like he did in 2018 with crisp striking, excellent fight IQ and a deadly ground game. He might just pull it off again against USD Dusseldorf’s Loik Radzhabov (13-1, 1 draw), who earned two wins and a draw this year under the PFL banner.
Alex Gilpin (14-3) is another submission hunter that ended up making a statement with his inclusion in this year’s batch of contenders, and now he’s near the finish line as he attempts to get by last year’s champ Lance Palmer (21-3) in a rematch of their previous bout earlier this year. Palmer still has his patented wrestleboxer approach courtesy of Team Alpha Male, and having a perfect 4-0 run. Lance won the previous encounter by decision, so Gilpin should hope he’s made the adequate adjustments to outwork Palmer this time around.
Jordan Johnson (12-1, 1 draw) opted to gamble on himself and not re-sign with the UFC, and so far it’s mostly paying off. A decision loss to Maxim Grishin sullied his PFL debut, but two wins and a draw in a rematch against Grishin, and Johnson might really go big and make more money than a lot of UFC fighters make in a year. The only problem? He’s gotta get through Emiliano Sordi, who lost on Dana White’s Contender Series to Ryan Spann last year and has found a high level of success in PFL. A perfect 4-0 run for 2019 is in the bag for Sordi so far, with a thundering finish over Vinny Magalhaes and back to back finishes over Bozigit Ataev (first by TKO, then by submission). Johnson might get that major payday, but Sordi’s gonna make him work for it.
Finally, Brendan Loughnane (18-3) wasn’t signed to the UFC for the dumbest of reasons after his Contender Series win, but he’ll be joining the featherweight tournament next year and getting his first PFL fight tonight. He meets 11-4 David Valente, who trains with Glover Teixeira and Caio Magalhaes, has fought mostly in Brazil and is coming in off two straight losses.
You can check out the weigh in video here:
Larissa Pacheco (153.6) vs. Kayla Harrison (154.8) - Women’s Lightweight championship
Ray Cooper III (168.6) vs. David Michaud (169.5) – Welterweight championship
Jared Rosholt (250.6) vs. Ali Isaev (258.8) – Heavyweight championship
Loik Radzhabov (154.8) vs. Natan Schulte (153.6) – Lightweight championship
Alex Gilpin (144.4) vs. Lance Palmer (144.6) – Featherweight championship
Emiliano Sordi (204.4) vs. Jordan Johnson (202.2) – Light heavyweight championship
David Alex Valente (145.8) vs. Brendan Loughnane (146) - Featherweight bout
The PFL 2019 finals take place this Tuesday night starting at 6:00pm on ESPN2.