It’s been quite some time since the PFL has been holding events. The promotion’s season format was disrupted for the entirety of 2020, as COVID-19 stopped them from holding events. Now after over a year out of the spotlight, PFL will return on Friday with the start of their 2021 regular season.
For those who aren’t aware, PFL looks to create an annual league-style format for MMA that is similar to how most sports operate. The promotion currently has six regular season events scheduled, with playoffs being done afterward. The fights in the regular season are for points that will give fighters a chance to get into the postseason.
The lightweight and featherweight divisions will get their start on Friday, fighting inside PFL’s bubble location at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. The lineups include the return of some previous PFL fighters and champions along with new notable signings.
Here’s a preview of the card.
Preliminary Card (5:30PM EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN GO)
Bout 1: Loik Radzhabov (13-2-1) vs. Alex Martinez (7-0) (Lightweight)
Loik Radzhabov will make his second push for a PFL title when fighting undefeated Alex Martinez on the prelims. Radzhabov last fought in PFL’s 2019 season, where he made it to the grand finals of the lightweight bracket. After a record of two wins, one loss and one draw in the regular season and playoffs, Radzhabov lost in the finals to Natan Schulte.
Radzhabov faces Martinez, who took a spot in the PFL roster on short notice. The 26-year-old took the place of Johnny Case, who was pulled from the season after being arrested on suspicion of domestic battery.
Martinez has attained seven wins as a pro, including a few in notable regional promotions Brave CF and iKON Fighting Federation.
Bout 2: Jo Sungbin (9-1) vs. Tyler Diamond (11-1) (Featherweight)
Two former UFC fighters in Jo Sungbin and Tyler Diamond will compete as part of the preliminary card. The fight will be the PFL debut for both athletes.
Jo last fought in 2019, where he lost his UFC debut to Daniel Teymur on scorecards. He had previously put together an undefeated record of nine wins in regional South Korean organizations and Chinese promotion Kunlun Fight.
Diamond is getting a shot in PFL after earning two wins on the regional scene in 2019. He had previously competed in Season 27 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which saw him get eliminated in the second round by Jay Cucciniello.
Bout 3: Chris Wade (17-6) vs. Anthony Dizy (13-3) (Featherweight)
PFL veteran Chris Wade will fight Anthony Dizy in the third bout of the prelims. Wade has been a part of the PFL since their season-based restructure in 2018. Through his two years in the promotion, the former UFC fighter has put together a record of five wins and just two losses.
Similar to Wade, Dizy will be fighting for the first time in a year. His last two fights were in 2019, where he defeated talent on M-1 Challenge cards.
Bout 4: Akhmet Aliev (19-6) vs. Mikhail Odintsov (18-2) (Lightweight)
PFL newcomer Mikhail Odintsov will face Akhmet Aliev during Friday’s preliminary card. Odintsov found his way into the promotion last year after winning a one-night tournament in RCC sponsored by the PFL. Odintsov defeated two opponents during one card to get guaranteed a spot in the PFL.
Aliev made his PFL debut in the 2019 season, finishing the year with a record of two wins and two losses.
Bout 5: Joilton Lutterbach (34-8) vs. Raush Manfio (11-3) (Lightweight)
Former Titan FC Lightweight Champion Raush Manfio will be paired against Joilton Lutterbach for Friday’s card.
Manfio has been inactive from MMA for a few years now, having last competed back in 2018. His last fight saw him lose his Titan FC belt on scorecards against Sidney Outlaw.
Manfio is replacing Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who withdrew from the event due to injury.
Lutterbach finds himself in PFL after a strong run on the regional scene. The 155-pounder strung together four wins in late 2019 and early 2020, including three first-round victories. The quick finishing tendencies could prove useful to Lutterbach, as PFL rewards more points to people who can finish their fight before time expires.
Bout 6: Brendan Loughnane (19-3) vs. Sheymon Moraes (11-4) (Featherweight)
The preliminary card is set to conclude with a featherweight bout between Brendan Loughnane and Sheymon Moraes.
Loughnane’s two strong prior performances in PFL make him a name to look out for in the featherweight division. While his wins weren’t counted towards PFL’s 2019 season, the 31-year-old defeated Matt Wagy and David Valente on scorecards in the year.
Moraes is making the move to PFL after a five-fight UFC run from 2017 to 2019. The campaign in the promotion concluded after he took a loss to Sodiq Yusuff and Andre Fili.
Moraes has competed for PFL before, fighting under the promotion from 2014 to 2016 when they went by the name WSOF.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (ESPN 2 / TSN 2)
Bout 7: Lance Palmer (22-3) vs. Bubba Jenkins (14-4) (Featherweight)
Two-time PFL Featherweight Champion Lance Palmer will look to kick off his third undefeated season under the promotion when fighting Bubba Jenkins on the main card.
Palmer’s success from the 2018 and 2019 seasons have resulted in him having an impressive undefeated streak of 11 consecutive bouts currently. His last fight saw him go five rounds against Alex Gilpin to win his second PFL belt.
Jenkins, a former Bellator veteran, is entering the promotion after putting together three wins over the past four years. Jenkins has competed in title fights in his last two outings, defeating opponents in Brave CF in 2018 and 2019.
Bout 8: Movlid Khaybulaev (15-0-1) vs. Lazar Stojadinovic (14-7) (Featherweight)
Undefeated featherweight Movlid Khaybulaev is set to fight Lazar Stojadinovic on Friday.
Khaybulaev competed in PFL’s 2019 season, earning a win and a draw before getting eliminated in the playoffs by Daniel Pineda. While that fight was originally a stoppage loss on Khaybulaev’s record, the bout was later overturned to a no contest due to a drug test done to Pineda. With his undefeated record reinstated, Khaybulaev on paper is one of the strongest names in the featherweight division.
Khaybulaev took one fight during PFL’s offseason, defeating Zaka Futallazade on a UAE Warriors card in November.
Stojadinovic enters Friday’s fight in place of Jason Soares, who withdrew from his bout. The promotional newcomer got the call after scoring two wins in Global Legion FC last year.
Bout 9: Natan Schulte (20-3-1) vs. Marcin Held (26-7) (Lightweight)
Like Lance Palmer, Natan Schulte has the chance for a three-peat in the upcoming PFL season. The first target in his way of attaining that is Marcin Held in the co-main event of Friday’s card.
Having won nine of his 10 bouts in the PFL, Schulte has been near perfect since they made the transition to a season format. His last fight saw him go five rounds against Loik Radzhabov to earn the PFL belt for the second time.
Held, a former UFC and Bellator fighter has seen himself on a strong run in MMA in recent years. While, like a lot of people in the tournament, he hasn’t fought in over a year, he has scored wins over names like Diego Brandao and Callan Potter in recent years.
Bout 10: Anthony Pettis (24-10) vs. Clay Collard (18-8) (Lightweight)
Former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis will make his PFL debut in the main event when fighting Clay Collard.
Pettis’ fight on Friday will be a landmark in his career, as it will see him compete outside of the UFC for the first time in nearly a decade. He exited the UFC last year following two wins, having defeated Donald Cerrone and Alex Morono on scorecards. Pettis departed the UFC with a promotional record of 11 wins and nine losses.
He now fights Collard, who is seeing his return to MMA after a successful venture into boxing last year. Making use of the absence of PFL events in 2020, Collard fought six times in boxing, tallying five wins and one loss. When solely assessing the former UFC fighter’s MMA record, he comes back to the sport on a two-fight win streak following victories on the regional scene in 2019.