PFL will kick off their welterweight and light heavyweight seasons on Thursday night, presenting an eight-fight card from the Oceans Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.
The lineup includes the PFL debut of big names like Antonio Carlos Junior and Rory MacDonald along with the return of champions Emiliano Sordi and Ray Cooper III.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates.
Preliminary Card (6:00EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN GO)
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (ESPN 2)
Bout 8: Rory MacDonald (21-6-1) vs. Curtis Millender (18-6) (Welterweight)
Former Bellator Champ MacDonald Earns Quick Submission Win In PFL Debut
Former UFC fighter and Bellator Welterweight Champion Rory MacDonald picked up six points in his PFL debut, submitting Curtis Millender in the first round of their main event fight with a rear naked choke.
MacDonald was able to start looking for the submission after taking the back of Millender on the ground. The former champ’s dominance on the ground came easily, similar to his ability to get the fight to the ground in the first place.
MacDonald’s fight was his first after competing in Bellator from 2017 to 2019. His time in the promotion saw him become a welterweight champion, defeating Douglas Lima in 2018 to claim the belt. He later lost the title in the grand finals of a grand prix being held by the promotion two years back.
MacDonald is now tied for first in the PFL standings with Ray Cooper III, who scored a first-round win in the co-main event.
Millender entered the PFL bracket on short notice to replace David Michaud, who withdrew from the tournament due to a heart condition. Oddly similar to MacDonald, Millender found himself in PFL after stints in the UFC and Bellator.
Bout 7: Ray Cooper III (20-7-1) vs. Jason Ponet (20-12-1) (Welterweight)
Cooper III Continues Finishing Ways With Submission Victory Over Ponet
Ray Cooper III had a fast win to kick off his 2021 run, submitting Jason Ponet in the second minute with an arm triangle choke. Cooper III was quick to hunt for the submission, not even landing a strike before getting Ponet to the ground.
The victory for Cooper III continued his success after winning the PFL championship in their previous season.
Cooper III won his first PFL season in 2019, defeating David Michaud in the grand finals after putting together a record of two wins, one loss, and one draw earlier in the year. His run through the two previous seasons in the PFL were explosive, all with nearly all 11 of the fights resulting in finishes.
Ponet was making his PFL debut after a three-fight win streak on the regional scene from 2018 to 2019.
Bout 6: Joao Zeferino (24-9) vs. Gleison Tibau (34-13) (Welterweight)
Zeferino Kicks Off 2021 Season With Scorecard Win Against Tibau
Joao Zeferino was given the scorecard nod against Gleison Tibau after a close stand-up battle through three rounds (29-28, 29-28 & 29-28). The win for Zeferino was awarded after both fighters kept a steady output of strikes in the 15 minute period of time.
Zeferino and Tibau were paired up for Thursday after both of their original opponents were removed from the lineup.
Zeferino had a three-fight win streak in PFL prior to Thursday’s bout.
Tibau was getting his MMA fight on a big stage after his UFC campaign stopped in 2018. His most recent appearance before Thursday night was in 2019, where he submitted Will Brooks on a regional card.
Bout 5: Emiliano Sordi (22-8) vs. Chris Camozzi (25-14) (Light Heavyweight)
2019 Champion Sordi Takes Gritty Victory Over Camozzi
2019 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Emiliano Sordi was given the unanimous decision win over Chris Camozzi after a dramatic back-and-forth fight to open the main card. (29-28, 29-28 & 28-27).
The first few minutes of the fight was a scrappy opening that saw both fighters land punches in the pocket. Sordi looked for a submission late in the first round, attempting a rear naked choke on the ground.
Camozzi got Sordi to the ground in the second round, although it was hard to tell if it came through a knockdown. He then landed ground and pound that did damage to Sordi during the entire frame and won him the round.
The third round was similar to the second, except it was Sordi who had the success. Sordi scored a knockdown in the opening minute of the final round with a right hand, allowing him to land strikes on the ground for most of the time.
The fight was the first time Sordi fought an entire three rounds or even just longer than two rounds since he joined the PFL roster in 2018. Sordi won the PFL Light Heavyweight Championship last season, going undefeated with five finish wins.
Camozzi, a former UFC fighter, was making his return to action after not competing in 2020. His last fight was in 2019, where he defeated Tony Lopez on a regional card.
Bout 4: Antonio Carlos Junior (10-5) vs. Tom Lawlor (10-7) (Light Heavyweight)
Carlos Junior Kicks Off PFL Run With Guillotine Choke Win
A dominant grappling showcase on the ground from Antonio Carlos Junior concluded with him scoring a guillotine choke against Tom Lawlor late in the first round.
Carlos Junior was able to slip in a guillotine choke once pulling guard in the final minute of the round. He had controlled the fight on the ground earlier as well, looking for an arm triangle choke against Lawlor while in full mount.
Carlos Junior entered the 2021 PFL season shortly after leaving the UFC roster. His UFC career, which lasted eight years, concluded in January when he lost to Brad Tavares.
Carlos Junior made the move up from middleweight to light heavyweight with the fight on Thursday.
Lawlor, who is also a former UFC fighter, was competing for the first time since 2018. On top of that, Thursday’s fight was only his second since 2016. He had been remaining active in recent years through participating in professional wrestling.
Bout 3: Cezar Ferreira (13-8) vs. Nick Roehrick (9-1) (Light Heavyweight)
UFC Veteran Ferreira Overwhelms Roehrick With Punches For Fast PFL Debut Win
It took Cezar Ferriera less than a minute to win his PFL debut, stopping Nick Roehrick with punches in the first round. Ferreira was able to stop the fight by storming Roehrick with strikes, dropping him with a combination of punches against the cage.
The win earned Ferreira six points in the PFL light heavyweight division, putting him first in the weight class currently.
Ferreira, winner in the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil,” was fighting for the first time since his UFC run concluded in 2019.
Roehrick was also making his first PFL appearance. He entered the bout on a two-fight win streak from the regional scene.
Bout 2: Sadibou Sy (8-5-2) vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin (26-5) (Welterweight)
Unintentional Eye Poke Forces End To Sy vs. Aleksakhin
A striking battle came to an abrupt end on the prelims, as an unintentional eye poke to Nikolay Aleksakhin took him out of a fight against Sadibou Sy, ending their fight in a no contest.
Aleksakhin’s eye was hurt while he was coming forward with punches during an exchange. Sy had his arms up in defense, causing one of the fingers in his left hand to unintentionally make contact with the left eye of Aleksakhin.
The no contest result gave each fighter one point in the PFL standings.
The fight was the start of Sy’s third year with the PFL. Sy’s record through the first two years in the promotion has resulted in two wins, three losses and two draws.
Aleksakhin was returning for his second PFL fight. He won his promotional debut in 2019, stopping Jesse Ronson within a round with strikes.
Bout 1: Dan Spohn (18-7) vs. Marthin Hamlet (6-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Hamlet Secures Arm Triangle Choke In PFL Debut
Marthin Hamlet won his PFL debut in the opening bout, choking Dan Spohn out in the second round with an arm triangle choke from full guard. The victory gave Hamlet five points in the light heavyweight PFL standings.
Hamlet had controlled his performance against Spohn throughout, scoring takedowns early in both rounds and keeping his opponent on his back. His submission early in the second round was stopped after the referee noticed that Spohn had gone unconscious.
Hamlet was entering PFL after putting together six wins and one loss as a pro on the regional scene.
Spohn is now on a three-fight losing streak. His two prior losses took place in the 2018 and 2019 PFL seasons.
Prelims Lose Young vs. Mozharov
The preliminary card will proceed without a light heavyweight bout, as Askar Mozharov withdrew from his bout against Jordan Young, as first reported by Ariel Helwani of ESPN.
Mozharov took the fight on short notice, replacing Vinny Magalhaes after weight cut issues took him off the card.
Correction: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated that Jordan Young was matched against Askar Mozharov after both of their original opponents withdrew from the card. The article has been since changed to reflect that Mozharov was stepping in for Vinny Magalhaes.