And then there were four.
All six of PFL’s divisions have officially entered their playoff stage, meaning many fighters are just two wins away from becoming champion and earning a $1 million grand prize. The first two divisions to begin their brackets, the light heavyweight and lightweights, are expected to compete Friday night at the Hulu Theatre in New York City, New York, USA.
Along with those playoff fights are prelim and postlim bouts that have implications for the 2023 PFL season. Here’s a preview of it all.
Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT) (ESPN+ / TSN Direct)
Bout 1: Cory Hendricks (9-4) vs. Marthin Hamlet (9-4) (2023 PFL Light Heavyweight Season Qualifier Bout)
PFL will do an unusual event structure this weekend, presenting more postlims than prelims. The promotion usually has a decently-sized undercard, but almost never offers prelims.
The short two-fight preliminary card this weekend includes bouts that will affect the 2023 season. In both matchups, the winner will secure a spot in the 2023 roster if they win. In the first of those two matchups, Cory Hendricks and Marthin Hamlet will compete.
In the other qualifier bout, it will see two names fight to get into the PFL season. But in this fight, it’s a pair of names competing to stay in the promotion.
Hamlet, a 2021 finalist, earned three points this season. Those points came from a March win, when he beat Teodoras Aukstuolis on scorecards. He lost his second regular season fight against Josh Silveira.
Hendricks fought just once this year, stopping Emiliano Sordi in the second round of a bout. Unfortunately for him, that victory wasn’t enough to get him a playoff spot.
Bout 2: Marcelo Nunes (8-1) vs. Dylan Potter (10-5) (2023 PFL Heavyweight Season Qualifier Bout)
Shifting over to the heavyweight division, a bout between Marcelo Nunes and Dylan Potter will take place.
Nunes appeared on PFL’s most recent “Challenger Series” season, submitting Bevon Lewis in the second round of a bout via triangle choke. Despite this win, he wasn’t signed for the 2022 season afterward. He has a chance to secure that spot for next year with a win this weekend.
Potter will be fighting for the first time in 11 months. His last fight was on the UFC TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series,” where he suffered a submission loss to Lukasz Brzeski. That fight has since been overturned to a no contest due to Brzeski failing a drug test.
Main Card (7:00PM EDT) (ESPN / TSN 2)
Bout 3: Rob Wilkinson (15-2) vs. Delan Monte (9-2) (PFL Light Heavyweight Playoff Semi-Final)
The main focus of the night, PFL’s playoffs, will begin after the short prelims. In the first of two light heavyweight fights, Rob Wilkinson and Delan Monte will compete.
Wilkinson had an explosive regular season run. In his first appearance, he put away Bruce Souto in the second round of a fight with punches. Just two months later, he earned a first-round victory over Viktor Pesta.
Monte had a bit more of a rocky year thus far, but made it to the playoffs nonetheless. He dropped his first fight, getting submitted in just 29 seconds by Antonio Carlos Junior. However, he bounced back in June, finishing Emiliano Sordi in just 92 seconds.
Bout 4: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (15-5) vs. Alexander Martinez (10-2) (PFL Lightweight Playoff Semi-Final)
After consistent regular seasons, Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Alexander Martinez will collide this weekend.
Aubin-Mercier and Martinez have had similar years thus far. They both went the distance in their two regular season fights, and all of those appearances were victories. In Aubin-Mercier’s case, he beat Natan Schulte and Raush Manfio. For Martinez, it was wins over Stevie Ray and Clay Collard that got him to this weekend.
Somebody’s winning streak will come to an end this Friday.
Bout 5: Omari Akhmedov (23-7-1) vs. Josh Silveira (9-0) (PFL Light Heavyweight Playoff Semi-Final)
The other grand final sport for light heavyweight will be confirmed when Omari Akhmedov and Josh Silveira face off.
Akhmedov started his year with a bang, stopping Viktor Pesta in just 85 seconds in April. His second fight was another strong showing, defeating Teodoras Aukstuolis. He will attempt to keep that momentum rolling this weekend.
Silveira wasn’t originally meant to compete in the playoffs. Due to not scoring enough points in the regular season, he was only an alternate a few weeks ago. However, after defending champion Antonio Carlos Junior had to withdraw from the event, he took his place.
Silveira, a former two-division LFA champion, is undefeated through nine pro fights. He won his sole regular season fight this year in dominant fashion, stopping Marthin Hamlet in the first round with strikes.
Bout 6: Anthony Pettis (25-13) vs. Stevie Ray (24-10) (PFL Lightweight Playoff Semi-Final)
PFL’s card this weekend will be headlined by Anthony Pettis and Stevie Ray. The two former UFC talents will aim to become finalists on Friday night, competing in a rematch.
This season is about redemption for Pettis. In his debut year for the PFL, 2021, he lost two regular season fights and didn’t qualify for playoffs. But after earning a quick triangle choke victory against Myles Price this year, he is in the playoffs and close to becoming champion.
The reason Ray is in the playoffs has a lot to do with his opponent, Pettis. The duo first met up in June, where Ray secured a second-round modified twister to earn five points in the lightweight division. With no prior win in the season, those five points took Ray to the playoffs and brought him to this weekend’s main event.
Not only can Pettis become a finalist with a win, but he can also avenge a loss that he took just a few months back. Nonetheless, this win is very important for either fighter if they are motivated by becoming a champion or taking the promotion’s $1 million grand prize.
Postlims (9:00PM EDT) (ESPN+)
Bout 7: Brahyan Zurcher (3-0) vs. Ricardo Jimenez (0-1-1) (2023 PFL Featherweight Challenger Series Qualifier)
PFL will put together a brief postlim card after their main card wraps up. In the first two bouts, the promotion will present “Challenger Series Qualifiers.” These bouts will give early-career prospects the chance to appear on the next season of the “PFL Challenger Series.” The show, which premiered this year, offers fighters a chance to enter the PFL season if they impress judges and viewers.
In the first of two bouts following this style, Brahyan Zurcher and Ricardo Jimenez will meet.
Zurcher has quickly attained three wins as a pro since debuting in April 2021. His last win came on the “Challenger Series,” when he went the distance against Scottie Stockman for a decision victory.
Jimenez is searching for his first pro win still. He lost his debut last year, dropping a decision to Mike Fitzroy. His last fight, a decision against Calogero Torretta, ended in a draw.
Bout 8: Elvin Espinosa (6-0) vs. Corey Jackson (5-1) (2023 PFL Lightweight Challenger Series Qualifier)
Undefeated Elvin Espinosa and lightweight prospect Corey Jackson will compete in the other “Challenger Series Qualifier” fight.
Espinosa notably appeared in the PFL once last year, fighting in a non-tournament fight against Hopeton Stewart. He has a solid showing in that fight, stopping Stewart in the opening round with a rear naked choke.
All of Espinosa’s wins as a pro have come via finish thus far.
Jackson, a Bellator alum, is coming off a two-fight run of wins in regional promotion NFC.
Bout 9: Lucas Barbosa (2-1) vs. Elmar Umarov (4-1) (Welterweight)
The card will close out with three more fights. Lucas Barbosa and Elmar Umarov are scheduled to meet at welterweight in the next fight.
Umarov has recently developed his talent in LFA. He bounced back from his sole pro loss early this year, scoring a first-round submission victory against Turner Williams.
Barbosa will be competing in MMA for the first time in nearly an entire decade. He has remained active outside of the sport, competing as a grappler for years.
Bout 10: Alexei Pergande (1-0) vs. Elvis Lebron Quiles (0-0) (Lightweight)
A pro debut will take place on the prelims when Elvis Lebron Quiles faces Alexei Pergande.
Quiles is turning pro after a strong four-fight run as an amateur. He debuted in June 2021, and is switching to pro after winning his fourth fight just two months back.
Pergande won his pro debut on the PFL “Challenger Series” in April, earning a second-round arm triangle choke victory against Joe Hamm. Before then, he also had a four-fight amateur run that all resulted in victories.
Bout 11: Mahmoud Sebie (2-1) vs. Itso Babulaidze (1-0) (Welterweight)
The final bout of the card is scheduled to be a welterweight fight between Mahmoud Sebie and Itso Babulaidze. This was marked as a “Swing Bout,” meaning it could potentially also get snuck in during the prelims, or another earlier part of the show.
Sebie will be making his PFL debut with this fight. He tasted defeat for the first time in his career in November 2021, as Ethan Hughes stopped him late during a bout on a Bellator card.
Babulaidze is coming over to PFL after a long run between amateur and pro fights in CFFC. He is coming off his debut, which saw him defeat Jorge Molina in March.