The final show of the first half of the PFL 2021 regular season is here on Thursday night at 5:30 PM EST on ESPN+ and the main card will begin at 9 PM EST on ESPN 2. This card is stacked with one of the PFL’s newest additions, the former UFC heavyweight champion and Jiu-Jitsu world champion, Fabricio Werdum. On top of this, the two-time Judo Olympic Gold medalist and 2019 PFL women’s lightweight champion, Kayla Harrison, is making her return. The rest of the undercard is filled with former UFC and Bellator contenders and rising prospects, so I promise you this is not a card that you want to miss. That being said, let’s get into my predictions for this card.
Fabricio Werdum vs Renan Ferreira
The main event for PFL 3 will feature two Brazilians, Fabricio Werdum and Renan Ferreira. Both men are making their PFL debuts and neither one is receiving an easy fight to say the least. Fabricio Werdum is widely regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight grapplers that MMA has ever seen, and he demonstrated that in his last performance when he made quick work of Alexander Gustaffson. After being suspended for two years, Werdum ha stated that he is excited for the challenge that PFL offers as he wants to stay as active as possible. And he is absolutely receiving a challenge with his opponent Renan Ferreira, who doesn’t have the experience Werdum has, but is still a serious threat. Ferriera is 6’10” with a long reach and heavy hands. This size advantage could cause some issues for Werdum if he wants to take the fight to the ground and Ferreira is able to keep him at bay with his long jab. Werdum has struggled in the past with lengthier opponents, like Alex Volkov, who knocked him out three years ago. If Werdum can take this fight to the ground, he will have the clear advantage with his grappling, but it all depends on if he can do so. I believe that he will be able to and land a submission like he has done so many times before and secure the victory.
My Pick: Fabricio Werdum via Submission
Kayla Harrison vs Mariana Morais
The co-main event is a fight that I have been looking forward to for quite some time as Kayla Harrison returns to the PFL after the 2020 layoff. Even though PFL did not hold events in 2020, Harrison remained active by competing in the Invicta promotion, where she secured one of the most dominant victories of the year. Something important to note is that she competed at featherweight for that bout, but she is now returning to lightweight for this PFL season. Her opponent, Marianna Morais is a veteran of the sport having competed across Brazi regionals l in several different weight classes. She will be making her PFL debut on Thursday against the returning champion, but she stated in her media day interview that she is up for the challenge and prepared to win. While Harrison has not been competing in MMA as long as Morais has, she is no newcomer to competition in Martial Arts, having claimed the gold medal in Judo at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. This background has been prevalent in her style of fighting as she uses violent Judo throws and submissions like armbars, which played a significant factor in her undefeated record up to this point. I believe that Harrison will be as sharp as ever on Thursday night and see her as the heavy favorite to reclaim the PFL women’s lightweight championship this year.
My Pick: Kayla Harrison via Submission
Mohammed Usman vs Brandon Sayles
The second bout of the main card will feature two heavyweights competing in the PFL regular season, Mohammed Usman and Brandon Sayles. Mohammed Usman is the younger brother of current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman. While he is technically his “little” brother, Mohammed is far from little, standing in at 6’1” and weighing in the mid 240’s. Brandon Sayles is making his PFL debut like Usman, and while he has not competed in three years, a victory on Thursday over a name like Usman would be huge for his career. Both men are relatively green in their professional careers, but so far, they have proven that they are finishers, with the majority of their victories not going the distance. I expect this fight to be an entertaining one and I’m excited to see who will emerge as the newest PFL heavyweight contender this season.
My Pick: Mohammed Usman via TKO
Larissa Pacheco vs Julija Pajić
Opening the main card is a matchup in the women’s lightweight divison between 2019’s title challenger Larissa Pacheco and newcomer Julija Pajić. Larissa Pacheco is a strong competitor who had fought a challenging 2019 season, having to face Kayla Harrison twice. While this was certainly a tough matchup for her, Pacheco was the first woman to go the distance with Kayla, not only once, but twice. She will be facing the young European prospect, Julija Pajić, who only has 3 fights in her professional career, but she has won all of those fights. In her young career, Pajić has a 100% rate with a strong grappling and striking background. Pacheco is also a finisher, also with a near 100% finish rate, with only victory going the distance in her career. Pacheco is an experienced grappler and I believe this is her strongest path to victory on Thursday night. Pajić’s path to victory -in my opinion- will be on the feet, where she could potentially finish the fight. That being said, I think the experience of Pacheco gives her the advantage in this fight and believe that she will win.
My Pick: Larissa Pacheco via Submission
Ante Delija vs Bruno Cappelozza
My Pick: Ante Delija via Submission
Cindy Dandois vs Kaitlin Young
My Pick: Cindy Dandois via Submission
Genah Fabian vs Laura Sanchez
My Pick: Laura Sanchez via Decision
Dennis Goltsov vs Muhammed Dereese
My Pick: Dennis Goltsov via TKO
Helena Kolesnyk vs Taylor Guardado
My Pick: Helena Kolesnyk via Decision