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PFL 2019, Week 1 preview: Kayla Harrison headlines on ESPN+ debut

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Another go-round for million dollar dreams and some wild matchups to get there. PFL is back for more surprises.

PFL

After a roller-coaster debut year in 2018, PFL is ready to deliver again with another million-dollar tournament. With some excellent additions to the roster and the addition of women’s lightweight division, their first event this week should be able to pick up nicely from where the organization left off in December.

First up, Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison (3-0) makes her return, but with a change in opponent. Original opponent Svetlana Khautova had to bow out, so now Harrison faces Jungle Fight and UFC veteran Larissa Pacheco (11-2). Pacheco’s got heavy hands and serviceable BJJ chops, but moving up in weight to take on a much-lauded athlete should be a big challenge. Harrison’s striking hasn’t been pretty, but it’s served her well thus far. After some time off, we’ll see how she’s progressed.

Hard-hitting John “Doomsday” Howard (27-14, 1) is back against grappling standout Magomed Magomedkerimov (23-5), who won the welterweight tournament last year with a slick guillotine choke against Cinderella story Ray Cooper III. Magomed’s not just a grappler, though. He finished Bojan Velickovic via strikes as well, and is very sneaky with his back control submission attempts.

Speaking of Ray Cooper (17-6), the battle-tested Hawaiian will be fighting his own cousin Zane Kaamaka (13-3) in the opening round. Also worth noting is that Kamaka missed weight for this one yet will still be allowed to compete. Former Strikeforce and Invicta champ Sarah Kaufman (20-4) faces California’s Morgan Frier (4-1), who lost her pro debut but rattled off four straight wins since. Unfortunately, all of those fights took place in Gladiator Challenge. Make of that what you will.

Sweden’s Sadibou Sy (7-4, 1) had some moments last year in the middleweight tournament, and he’ll be dropping to welterweight this time around to face former UFC fighter David Michaud (15-4). Former Ultimate Fighter contestant and kickboxing specialist Genah Fabian (1-0) takes on Canada’s Bobbi Jo Danziel (4-0), and former UFC fighter Bojan Velickovic (16-8, 2 draws) will meet Brazilian brickhouse Handesson Ferreira (13-2, 2 draws).

Finally, after winning a great fight on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, “The Action Man” Chris Curtis (20-5) was still not offered a UFC contract. The disappointment was enough to have him briefly retire, but return to the sport and end up with a spot in this tournament as well. He’ll be meeting AKA talent and former Bellator fighter Andre Fialho (10-1) who hits like a Mack truck. It should be noted that Curtis was originally scheduled to face last year’s middleweight winner Louis Taylor, who was not given medical clearance by the New York State Athletic Commission, leading to his subsequent withdrawal from the tournament.

Weigh-in results and full card are as follows:

Kayla Harrison (155.6) vs Larissa Pacheco (155.6)

Magomed Magomedkerimov (170.4) vs John Howard (170.8)

Ray Cooper III (170.2) vs Zane Kamaka (172.8)* - Kamaka missed weight, Cooper III awarded three points with opportunity for more with a stoppage win

Sarah Kaufman (153.6) vs Morgan Frier (151.6)

Sadibou Sy (169.8) vs David Michaud (170.8)

Handesson Ferreira (170.2) vs Bojan Velickovic (170.2)

Genah Fabian (155.6) vs Bobbi Jo Dalziel (155.6)

Gamzat Khiramagomedov (171) vs Glaico Franca (170.8)

Andre Fialho (170.4) vs Chris Curtis (170.6)

Moriel Charneski (155) vs Roberta Samad (154.4)

PFL 2019 #1 starts on ESPN+ this Thursday night, with prelims starting at 6:30 PM ET and main card action on ESPN2 at 9 PM ET.