PFL 2022 #1 Preview

Clay Collard and Jeremy Stephens stare each other down during the ceremonial PFL weigh-ins.
Clay Collard and Jeremy Stephens will headline PFL’s first event of 2022 (PFL)

Since 2018, PFL has tested translating the sport of MMA into an annual season and playoffs. The promotion’s fourth-ever season will begin Wednesday when they hold a card from the Esport Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA.

The card includes a selection of lightweight and light heavyweight fighters. Along with four other weight classes, these names will compete twice in the regular season for points that can put them into a four-man postseason bracket. The endgame for all fighters is to hopefully make the finals and win the grand prize of $1 million.

The road to that big prize starts Wednesday for 20 names. Here’s a preview of it all.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT / 5:00PM CDT) (ESPN+ / TSN Direct)

Bout 1: Simeon Powell (5-0) vs. Clinton Williams (9-5) (Light Heavyweight)

Undefeated Simeon Powell will face Clinton Williams in the first light heavyweight fight of the night.

Powell joined the PFL roster through their “Challenger Series” show from earlier this year. He scored a win on that show just a little less than two weeks ago, defeating Tobias Baker via unanimous decision. Before then, he had a record of four finish wins as a pro.

Williams fought in PFL back when it was known as the WSOF, losing twice from 2015 to 2016. He is now returning to the promotion after scoring two wins in 2021.

Bout 2: Rob Wilkinson (13-2) vs. Bruce Suoto (15-3) (Light Heavyweight)

In another debut from the “Challenger Series,” Bruce Suoto will meet Rob Wilkinson.

Suoto won on the season premiere of the “Challenger Series,” scoring a first-round finish victory against Travis Davis. This extended a long winning streak that he had put together since 2015, including an LFA victory in 2021.

Wilkinson was a UFC fighter from 2017 to 2018, departing the promotion after two losses. He is joining the PFL roster after scoring two consecutive finish wins on the regional scene.

Bout 3: Omari Akhmedov (21-7-1) vs. Viktor Pesta (18-6) (Light Heavyweight)

Appearing in his first full PFL season, former UFC fighter Omari Akhmedov will battle against Viktor Pesta.

Akhmedov had a 15-fight UFC run from 2013 to 2021. He left the promotion last year after losing a split decision to Brad Tavares.

Akhmedov fought in a non-tournament PFL bout last year, getting finished by Jordan Young. He’ll fight to bounce back from that loss on Wednesday.

Pesta, also a former UFC fighter, is joining the PFL after going on a three-fight winning streak in the Czech Republic.

Bout 4: Marthin Hamlet (8-3) vs. Teodoras Aukstuolis (11-5) (Light Heavyweight)

2021 finalist Marthin Hamlet will kick off his 2022 run against Teodoras Aukstuolis this week.

Hamlet secured a playoff spot last year with a submission win against Dan Spohn during the regular season. He advanced past the semi-finals due to opponent Cezar Ferreira suffering an injury just 13 seconds into their fight. Then in the finals, he was submitted by Antonio Carlos Junior.

Aukstuolis, a RIZIN alum, will be fighting as a pro for the first time since 2017.

Bout 5: Alexander Martinez (8-2) vs. Stevie Ray (23-9) (Lightweight)

Appearing for the first time since his UFC career, Stevie Ray will meet Alexander Martinez on the prelims.

Ray was a UFC fighter from 2014 to 2019, competing with them after succeeding in the regional promotion Cage Warriors. His last fight was in 2019, when he beat Michael Johnson via majority decision. After getting cut by the promotion and briefly retiring, Ray is back to competition this week.

Martinez competed in the PFL season last year, putting together one win and two losses.

Bout 6: Emiliano Sordi (23-9-1) vs. Cory Hendricks (8-4) (Light Heavyweight)

2019 Champion Emiliano Sordi will look for his second title this year, and that journey will begin Wednesday when he faces Cory Hendricks in the final prelim.

Sordi made the playoffs last year after putting together a win and a draw in the regular season. He was then eliminated in the semi-finals by Antonio Carlos Junior.

Hendricks fought in the 2021 season but failed to make the playoffs. He opened the year with a bang, making a late comeback against Marthin Hamlet for a submission win. This being his sole regular season fight, the four points he earned from the bout wasn’t enough to get him a playoff spot.

Main Card (9:00PM EDT / 8:00PM CDT) (ESPN / TSN 3)

Bout 7: Natan Schulte (21-4-1) vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (13-5) (Lightweight)

Two-time champion Natan Schulte will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the opening fight of the main card.

Schulte is best known for winning the PFL Championship in the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He struggled in the promotion’s return last year, not qualifying for the postseason after beating Alexander Martinez via decision and losing to Marcin Held.

Aubin-Mercier made the transition from the UFC to PFL last year. He fought once in the regular season, defeating Marcin Held. He earned another win in a non-tournament fight later that year, beating Darrell Horcher.

Bout 8: Antonio Carlos Junior (13-5) vs. Delan Monte (8-1) (Light Heavyweight)

2021 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Antonio Carlos Junior will start his new year with a fight against Delan Monte on the main card.

Carlos Junior joined the PFL roster last year following a long UFC run. By submitting Tom Lawlor in the first fight of the season, Carlos Junior qualified for playoffs. He then beat Emiliano Sordi in the semi-finals of the tournament and tapped Marthin Hamlet via rear naked choke in the grand finals. He has the chance to chase his second title on Friday.

Monte will be making his PFL debut against the top seed in the tournament. He has fought as a pro since 2014 and has scored eight wins in that time. This includes two submission wins from the regional scene in Brazil from last year.

Bout 9: Raush Manfio (15-3) vs. Don Madge (10-3-1) (Lightweight)

Raush Manfio will look to build off his flawless 2021 season on Friday night when he faces Don Madge in the co-main event.

Manfio had a perfect four-win 2021 run in the PFL last year. He went five rounds against Loik Radzhabov in the finals of the lightweight bracket, being him via unanimous decision to earn the $1 million prize and become champion.

Madge won his PFL debut last year, securing a second-round rear naked choke win over Nathan Williams. Before then, he had a short UFC run that earned him two wins.

Bout 10: Clay Collard (20-9) vs. Jeremy Stephens (28-19) (Lightweight)

UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens will make his PFL debut in Wednesday’s main event, facing Clay Collard in a lightweight bout.

Stephens spent more than a decade in the UFC, fighting a combined 33 times in total for the promotion. He parted ways with them after going winless since 2018, taking five losses through six appearances.

Stephens last fought in July 2021, when former KSW Champion Mateusz Gamrot submitted him within a round via kimura.

The tough challenges won’t let up for Stephens on Wednesday. He’s now going to face Collard, who is coming off a strong debut year in the PFL.

Collard made a name for himself in the regular season, defeating Anthony Pettis and Joilton Lutterbach via decision respectively. He later went on to lose in the semi-finals to Raush Manfio.

Stephens could end a streak of losses on Wednesday, or Collard could start his second quest towards $1 million.

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