PFL 2021 Championships: The Definitive Guide

           

The PFL’s comeback season has finally come to an end after their absence in 2020 and on Wednesday night, 6 million dollars will be awarded to the champions of the 2021 season. With a season of ups, downs, and shocking upsets, the championship bouts are guaranteed to deliver and I’m very eager to see their outcomes. On top of the six championship bouts, the “GWOAT” Claressa Shields is returning for her second MMA fight. The undercard features many familiar faces such as Julia Budd, Omari Akhmedov, and Don Madge. In other words, the card is stacked and here are my predictions for the night.

Kayla Harrison vs. Taylor Guardado

            Starting off with the main event, the star of the PFL, Kayla Harrison is looking to defend her 2019 championship victory versus Taylor Guardado. Unsurprisingly, Harrison has dominated her way to the finals for the second consecutive season, after earning three first round stoppages this year. The two-time Olympic Judo Gold medalist seems to be constantly improving and if she wins on Wednesday will advance her record to 12-0. Her opponent, Taylor Guardado, may appear to be a little inexperienced with a 3-1, but this does not accurately portray her MMA career. Taylor has been in the sport for over a decade now and had an extensive amateur career, even fighting Ronda Rousey in 2011. She has won three decision victories in the 2021 season so far and will be facing her toughest challenge in Kayla Harrison. The oddsmakers don’t see much potential of Guardado securing a victory, as she is currently a +1300 underdog and Harrison is a -3000 favorite. Harrison came into MMA with gold standard Judo throws and her takedown, submission, and ground and pound ability is constantly improving and because of that, I agree with the oddsmakers and see Kayla winning another PFL championship on Wednesday night.

            My pick: Kayla Harrison via TKO

Ray Cooper III vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov 2

            The co-main event on Wednesday night will be the welterweight championship three years in the making between Magomed Magomedkerimov and Ray Cooper III. In 2018, Cooper and Magomedkerimov faced off in the welterweight championship where Magomedkerimov defeated Cooper in a competitive fight via submission. In 2019, these two were scheduled to face each other in the welterweight semifinals, but Magomedkerimov was ill and had to withdraw from the tournament. Cooper would go on to win the semifinal as well as the 2019 championship. Both Cooper and Magomedkerimov utilized their wrestling in their semifinal bouts, and I have a feeling that will not be the case on Wednesday and that they will settle the fight on the feet. But if it does, Magomedkerimov has slick takedowns and cooper has an excellent submission game, so wherever the fight takes place, it’s going to be exciting. In the first fight Cooper pushed forward looking to land big shots while Magomedkerimov sought to counter him and take him down. Since this fight, I believe Cooper’s ground game has improved and I’m interested to see the adjustments he will make.

            My Pick: Ray Cooper III via TKO

Claressa Shields vs. Abigail Montes

            The feature bout of the night will be between the most accomplished women in boxing, Claressa Shields versus Abigail Montes. Shields made her anticipated MMA debut in June where she was able to overcome adversity in the first two rounds and finish her opponent via ground and pound in the third. The big question going into that fight was how will she be on the ground, and she was able to survive long enough to get the finish. I think this question is still valid as she is still very new to MMA and wrestling is a skill not easily mastered. And if Montes can survive the standup with Shields, Shields is in real danger on the ground. Montes showed solid takedowns in her last fight and was able to finish her opponent via ground and pound. Shield’s has a marginal advantage on the feet; however, and could easily finish Montes if she can stay there. So, the big question is again, how well can Claressa Shields defend takedowns? In my opinion that will decide this fight.

            My Pick: Abigail Montes via TKO (Ground and pound)

Bruno Henrique Cappelozza vs. Ante Delija

            The second fight on the main card will be for the heavyweight championship and it will be a rematch from earlier this year between Bruno Cappelozza and Ante Delija. Bruno has earned three highlight knockouts this season en route to the championship, including over Ante Delija. Delija was able to comeback from this knockout loss and has won two fights since then, earning his spot in the championship. However, Cappelozza seems to be on a different level than the rest of the PFL heavyweights and I don’t see a different outcome than the first fight.

            My Pick: Bruno Cappelozza via KO

Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Chris Wade

            Opening the main card is the featherweight championship between Movlid Khaybulaev and Chris Wade. Khaybulaev was my early pick to win the featherweight championship and he has claimed three decision victories to get to the final where he will face Chris Wade. Wade has had a great run as well this season and was able to spoil Bubba Jenkins’ run in the semifinals. Movlid has shown time and time again that he is a dominating wrestler and I believe that will be his game plan for this fight. I think Chris Wade’s plan for this fight will be to try to keep his back off the cage and to out strike Khaybulaev with volume. That Is easier said than done, as Molvid’s pressure and takedowns are very strong and reminiscent of other great Russian fighters.

            My Pick: Movlid Khaybulaev via Decision

Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Marthin Hamlet

            The feature prelim will be the light heavyweight championship between Antonio Carolos Junior and Marthin Hamlet. This shows how stacked this card is with two title fights on the prelims. Antonio has thrived in the PFL so far since leaving the UFC and moving up to light heavyweight, as he defeated the 2019 season champion, Emiliano Sordi, via unanimous decision in the semi-finals. Marthin Hamlet has also had a solid season, with 2 stoppage victories and 1 defeat. However, Hamlet’s regular season loss to Cory Hendricks via rear naked choke could prove to be a large hole in his game on Wednesday. Antonio is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and 10 submission victories on his professional record, six of those being rear naked chokes. Antonio Carlos Junior has also showed improvement in his striking recently and because of that I think he has a big advantage over Marthin Hamlet.

            My Pick: Antonio Carlos Junior via Submission

Loik Radzhabov vs. Raush Manfio

            The first title fight of the night will be in the lightweight divison between Loik Radzhabov and Raush Manfio. Radzhabov competed for the lightweight championship in 2019 but lost to Manfio’s friend, Natan Schulte. He’ll get a second chance to gain the title on Wednesday against Raush Manfio. Manfio has won three very close fights to get to the championship, including a controversial win in the semifinal against Clay Collard. I expect this to be a close fight as both men are very rounded fighters and willing to go the distance, but I think Radzhabov’s striking will give him the advantage.

            My pick: Radzhabov via Decision

Omari Akhmedov vs. Jordan Young

            My Pick: Akhmedov via Decision

Julia Budd vs. Kaitlin Young

            My Pick: Julia Budd via Decision

Don Madge vs. Nathan Williams

            My Pick: Don Madge via KO

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