PFL’s welterweight and light heavyweight tournaments will kick off on Thursday night, with regular-season fights at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA.
The lineup of fights on Thursday features the PFL debut of numerous big names in the sport along with the return of PFL Champions Emiliano Sordi and Ray Cooper III.
Here’s a full preview of the show.
Preliminary Card (5:30EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN GO)
Bout 1: Dan Spohn (18-7) vs. Marthin Hamlet (6-1) (Light Heavyweight)
The evening will kick off with a light heavyweight bout between Dan Spohn and Marthin Hamlet.
Spohn has been part of the PFL roster since 2018. Through his time in the promotion, he has put together two wins and two losses. He now faces Spohn, who is entering the promotion after putting together six wins and one loss on the regional scene from 2017 to 2019.
Bout 2: Sadibou Sy (8-5-2) vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin (26-5) (Welterweight)
Welterweight Sadibou Sy will start his third run towards a PFL title fight when facing Nikolay Aleksakhin. Sy’s two previous seasons in the PFL have resulted him being eliminated in the playoffs. His last fight saw him fight to a draw against Ray Cooper III after two rounds, although PFL’s rules gave Cooper III the advance into the playoffs.
Alekakhin enters the 2021 season with an impressive seven-fight win streak. He made his PFL debut in 2019, stopping Jesse Ronson within a round with strikes.
Bout 3: Cezar Ferreira (13-8) vs. Nick Roehrick (9-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Two former UFC fighters in Cezar Ferreira and Nick Roehrick will face off in a light heavyweight bout. Ferreira’s 15-fight UFC run concluded in 2019, where he took a decision loss against Marvin Vettori. The winner of Season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil” had competed in the promotion since 2012.
Roehrick fought once in the UFC, losing to Jared Cannonier in 2017. He has picked up two wins on the regional scene since then.
Bout 4: Askar Mozharov (23-7) vs. Jordan Young (11-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Former Bellator fighter Jordan Young will face fellow PFL debutant Askar Mozharov on the prelims. Mozharov is stepping in for Vinny Magalhaes, who withdrew and was admitted into a hospital due to his weight cut, per a report from Damon Martin and Mike Heck of MMA Fighting.
Mozharov’s PFL debut comes after scoring three first-round wins last year. His quick wins in 2020 actually add up to less than a round of cage-time in total.
Young will look to bounce back from his first pro loss, which he took against Julius Anglickas in late 2019. Before then, Young had attained six straight wins in Bellator.
Bout 5: Antonio Carlos Junior (10-5) vs. Tom Lawlor (10-7) (Light Heavyweight)
Two products of UFC’s TV series “The Ultimate Fighter” will collide in the final prelim, as Antonio Carlos Junior and Tom Lawlor will fight.
Carlos Junior is fighting in PFL just months after ending his long UFC run. He last fought at UFC 257 in January, where he lost on scorecards to Brad Tavares. The fight was his third consecutive loss in the promotion, ending a run that included 13 fights in total.
Carlos Junior will be making the move up from middleweight on Thursday.
Lawlor entered the UFC in 2008 after competing in the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He put together a promotional record of six wins and five losses before being cut from the roster.
He has been quite inactive as of late, in part because he served a two-year U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspension while under contract with the UFC, only to be released when in the final two months of his suspension. He has fought only once in the past five years, losing on scorecards to Deron Winn in 2018. Lawlor has not been out of the spotlight, however, as he has been active in professional wrestling in recent years.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (ESPN 2)
Bout 6: Emiliano Sordi (22-8) vs. Chris Camozzi (25-14) (Light Heavyweight)
2019 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Emiliano Sordi will shoot for his second season win this year, and his goal starts with a fight against Chris Camozzi.
Sordi basically had a flawless 2019 season, winning all five fights from the regular season to playoffs. All fights were stopped due to strikes, with four of them happening in the first round.
Camozzi, a veteran of the sport, will be competing for the first time in over a year. He picked up his first win since departing the UFC two years ago, submitting Tony Lopez on a regional MMA card.
Bout 7: Joao Zeferino (24-9) vs. Gleison Tibau (34-13) (Welterweight)
Joao Zeferino and Gleison Tibau have been paired for Thursday’s card after both of their previous matchups fell through.
Zeferino was first scheduled to fight Magomed Magomedkerimov, who withdrew from the card earlier in the month. Zeferino is a veteran of PFL, having fought for them since 2015 when they were known as WSOF. He is currently on a three-fight win streak.
Tibau parted ways with the UFC in 2018 after losing his fourth consecutive bout. He has returned to his winning ways since then, defeating Efrain Escudero and Will Brooks in the past three years. He was originally set to fight Alexey Kunchenko on Thursday, but his opponent changed once Kunchenko withdrew.
Bout 8: Ray Cooper III (20-7-1) vs. Jason Ponet (20-12-1) (Welterweight)
Returning in the hunt for his second consecutive championship, Ray Cooper III will fight Jason Ponet in the co-main event of the card. Cooper III’s 2019 season saw him earn his first title for the PFL, defeating David Michaud in the finals of the bracket. He had come close in the inaugural season a year before, although he lost in the finals to Magomed Magomedkerimov.
Ponet will be making his first appearance under PFL on Thursday. The French fighter has put together three wins since 2018 on the regional scene, including a 2019 victory against Ahmad Labban in UAE Warriors.
Bout 9: Rory MacDonald (21-6-1) vs. Curtis Millender (18-6) (Welterweight)
Former UFC fighter and Bellator Champion Rory MacDonald will have his first PFL fight in the main event of Thursday’s card. He faces Curtis Millender, who took the bout on short notice after heart issues forced David Michaud out of the entire 2021 season.
MacDonald is making the move to PFL after a six-fight run in Bellator. His stint in Bellator saw him become the promotion’s 170-pound champion, earning the belt off of Douglas Lima in 2018. He left Bellator last year, switching promotions after losing a fight to Douglas Lima in the grand finals of Bellator’s Welterweight Grand Prix.
He will now face Millender, who also has UFC and Bellator experience under his belt. Millender had a brief UFC run from 2018 to 2019, scoring three wins before losing two in the promotion. He most recently fought twice for Bellator, winning a fight then losing on scorecards to Sabah Homasi in August.
The fight was Millender’s return to Bellator, as he had appeared on cards by the promotion in 2015 and 2017 as well.