The 2022 PFL finals are set for Nov. 25 at a location nonetheless to be introduced. The finalists in six weight lessons embrace a number of acquainted faces, in addition to some new ones.
It has been an fascinating season, with loads of upsets befalling among the promotion’s greatest homegrown names and free agent signings. Two-time-defending welterweight champion Ray Cooper III misplaced his first regular-season battle to a Challengers Sequence entry and missed the playoffs. Former UFC light-weight champ Anthony Pettis and ex-Bellator girls’s featherweight titlist Julia Budd additionally missed the playoffs, and former Bellator welterweight belt holder and UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald was knocked out in his first-round matchup.
However 12 fighters stay within the chase for $1 million. This is a recap of how we arrived at every of the finals matchups, in addition to one thing about every battle to keep watch over come November.
Featherweight: Brendan Loughnane (25-4) vs. Bubba Jenkins (19-5)
How we obtained right here: We’re not gonna make a giant deal of it, OK? Only a fast point out. However we’d be remiss if we did not level it out: That is the state of affairs many foresaw when the UFC infamously handed on Loughnane after he gained on Dana White’s Contender Sequence in 2019. To many, it felt just like the UFC was passing on a expertise that may go on to have success. And so, although that story could be very a lot behind Loughnane, it can nonetheless be a part of the narrative if he wins all of it.
Past that vital footnote, it has been an fascinating path for Loughnane to this 145-pound matchup. It is honest to say he did not appear like a world beater throughout the common season. He barely made the playoffs as a No. 4 seed, regardless of a really favorable matchup (towards In the past Huskic, a late substitute on a two-fight dropping streak) in his second regular-season look. However when Loughnane wanted to show it on, he did. He appeared incredible towards Chris Wade within the semifinals, and appears like an actual problem proper now.
So does Jenkins, who has been constantly stable all season. Jenkins’ coach, Dewey Cooper, appears to have him in an incredible spot.
What to look at for: The defensive wrestling of Loughnane. That’s what did him in, in a split-decision loss towards Movlid Khaybulaev within the 2021 semifinals. It grew to become Loughnane’s focus in getting ready for the 2022 season. Jenkins, a 2011 NCAA Division I nationwide champion and 2008 finalist, is definitely going to check that wrestling.
Light-weight: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (16-5) vs. Stevie Ray (25-10)
How we obtained right here: We arrived at this matchup on the expense of among the PFL’s greatest acquisitions. Going into the 2022 season, light-weight was the PFL’s darling weight class, one the corporate might depend on to headline playing cards and ship title worth. Anthony Pettis, Clay Collard and Jeremy Stephens are some very enjoyable names to place on the prime of a battle card.
These two finalists took completely different paths. Aubin-Mercier fought among the hardest matchups on the market in Natan Schulte, Raush Manfio and Alex Martinez. For these holding observe at residence, that is two former PFL event winners (Schule, Manfio) and arguably essentially the most underrated fighter within the light-weight division (Martinez). Ray, who entered the season coming off practically three years of inactivity in MMA, went by means of the largest title, defeating Pettis twice in back-to-back appearances.
What to look at for: The sport plan of Aubin-Mercier. He is as well-rounded as they arrive, and takes satisfaction in executing a recreation plan that stacks all the odds in his favor. The whole lot Aubin-Mercier does or makes an attempt could have goal behind it, and we’ll see how Ray responds.
Welterweight: Dilano Taylor (10-2) vs. Sadibou Sy (12-6-2)
How we obtained right here: If we’re being trustworthy, it is unattainable to not really feel a little bit cheated by this matchup. Though Magomed Umalatov fought solely as soon as throughout the common season, he appeared like the true deal. The undefeated Russian has recorded 11 finishes in his 12 skilled wins, and gave the impression to be a significant issue for anybody. The semifinals have been initially arrange fantastically, as Umalatov was purported to battle Rory MacDonald, however visa points prevented Umalatov from competing in August. He was changed by Taylor.
There’s nonetheless a very good story right here in Taylor, as he punched his ticket to the ultimate with a spotlight knockout of MacDonald inside the primary spherical. However this matchup nonetheless does miss Umalatov, it simply does. It could have been good to see if he might have completed what he began.
On the opposite facet, Sy has been remarkably constant and, at age 35, is stringing collectively most likely the very best performances of his profession. He went 3-0 in 2022, together with a win over MacDonald.
What to look at for: Will Taylor have the Cinderella story ending? He began off the yr on the Challengers Sequence in February, and with a win there he grew to become an alternate for the season. As soon as the season was over, he grew to become an alternate for the playoffs. He is clearly made good on his alternatives. Does he have one present of opportunism left, towards a extra skilled opponent, to tug off an unbelievable event win?
Mild Heavyweight: Rob Wilkinson (16-2) vs. Omari Akhmedov (24-7-1)
How we obtained right here: Loads of brutal finishes, to be frank. Wilkinson has been on hearth in 2022. The previous UFC middleweight was restricted to only one look between 2020 and 2021, as a result of pandemic. The Aussie veteran obtained so determined for motion, he booked an expert boxing match final October. The day without work clearly had no unfavorable affect on Wilkinson, nevertheless, as he has completed his 2022 opponents within the second spherical, first spherical and first spherical. The way in which Wilkinson has appeared, it may be very arduous for somebody to topple him.
Nonetheless, Akhmedov is the proper man for the job. For one, he is a veteran himself. The American High Staff product has lots of expertise in high-level MMA. His persona is ideal for the function, too. There are few fighters who appear as snug as Akhmedov throughout battle week. He went into this season going through questions — comparable to, “Is he too small for this weight class?” — and has responded by ending his first two opponents after which dispatching Josh Silveira, a real wild card, within the semifinals.
What to look at for: Wilkinson’s offensive versatility. Once more, three finishes in three fights — and none of that was luck. Wilkinson is hurting guys this yr, and in quite a lot of methods.
Heavyweight: Ante Delija (22-5) vs. Matheus Scheffel (17-8)
How we obtained right here: Upsets. No division was as wild with upsets and late modifications in 2022 as heavyweight. Scheffel’s large second got here in his second regular-season look, when he upset 2021 event winner Bruno Cappelozza as an almost 4-to-1 betting underdog. Scheffel didn’t initially qualify for the playoffs, however when Cappelozza (damage) and Denis Goltsov (visa) have been pulled from the semifinals, Scheffel was known as upon and made essentially the most of his alternative by knocking out Juan Adams.
Delija, of Croatia, reached the ultimate for the second yr in a row with old style blue collar work. Whereas a lot of the public’s consideration throughout the season went to Cappelozza or athletic marvel Renan Ferreira, Delija earned the No. 2 seed with two victories throughout the common season earlier than grinding out a convincing win over Ferreira within the semifinals. Delija usually will get missed, however he is the clear favourite on this championship matchup, having already crushed Scheffel of their regular-season opener in April.
What to look at for: Scheffel’s confidence. Primarily based purely on a comparability of talent units, Scheffel has no enterprise profitable this battle. I am not saying he cannot win, after all, however he was a major underdog towards Delija the primary time they met and he’ll seemingly be a good greater one right here. However Scheffel is a kind of guys who simply doesn’t consider the chances. He’ll go into this battle believing it is his.
Girls’s light-weight: Kayla Harrison (15-0) vs. Larissa Pacheco (18-4)
How we obtained right here: Look, it is no shock Harrison is within the ultimate for the third season in a row. Everybody anticipated as a lot. She has appeared fully dominant, as all the time, though her first regular-season matchup, a choice win towards Marina Mokhnatkina in Could, performed out much more intently than anticipated, with Harrison as a 50-to-1 betting favourite. However even saying that could be a stretch. Harrison has been Harrison in 2022.
Pacheco has already misplaced to Harrison twice, together with within the 2019 PFL ultimate. However she’s completed all the pieces in her energy to make one assume that perhaps — simply perhaps — it might be completely different the third time round. Often, seeing the identical matchup for the third time in about three years will not be very thrilling. However the best way during which Pacheco has terrorized competitors in 2022 — three first-round knockouts — means that this might be essentially the most harmful battle for Harrison within the PFL.
What to look at for: Pacheco’s takedown protection. If Pacheco defends early takedown makes an attempt and we see a glance of frustration on Harrison’s face for the primary time, we might be in for a wild night time.