The Professional Fighters League returns on April 23 with its third season. Over the weeks and months that follow, the company will host its 2021 regular season, which features featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight competition on the men’s side and lightweight competition on the women’s side.
The 2021 season airs on ESPN2 and ESPN+ and aims to give fighters a chance to win a $1 million grand prize.
As the season approaches, Combat Press will preview each division. Let’s look at welterweight, where Ray Cooper III seeks to repeat as the champion.
The Favorite: Rory MacDonald
Since he was announced for this season, MacDonald has been the hands-down favorite to win the welterweight tournament. While he will have some major competition in former champ Magomed Magomedkerimov and Alexey Kunchenko, MacDonald has fought the highest quality of competition and has been very successful. The argument against MacDonald is that he’s taken serious damage in the last few years that could make him vulnerable. This is a legit concern, but the Canadian is a smart fighter who can adjust his game plan to expose his opponent’s biggest weakness.
The Dark Horse: Nikolay Aleksakhin
The welterweight roster is very talented this year, which makes the dark-horse pick tough. However, Aleksakhin is the guy with the least amount of name recognition who has the best chance to shine this season. He’s young, but he’s also experienced. Aleksakhin is nasty wherever the fight goes, and he holds victories over respectable talents. There are plenty of match-ups this season where he will have the advantage. He could be a breakout candidate.
The Longshot: Jason Ponet
Despite his standing as a veteran of 33 fights, Ponet is swimming in a division full of absolute sharks. The 32-year-old Frenchman has some solid wins, including one over UFC vet Tommy Hayden, but he has fallen against his toughest opponents, including Piotr Hallmann, Chris Fishgold and Joilton Santos. Most of his victories come against lesser names, and his chances are not good in a field of fighters that features MacDonald, Magomedkerimov, Gleison Tibau and more.
The Finals Prediction: MacDonald vs. Magomedkerimov
The biggest star in the welterweight division against a former PFL champion. This is what the company wants, and it’s what the company is going to get this season. MacDonald is a no-brainer. He has some definite hard fights on his hands depending on his regular-season pairings. Meanwhile, Magomedkerimov has already shown in past seasons how dangerous he can be. He was dominant against a respectable group of opponents.
Ray Cooper III
PFL 2021 #2 Fight Picks
Rory MacDonald vs. Curtis Millender
Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. João Zeferino
Alexey Kunchenko vs. Gleison Tibau
Nikolay Aleksakhin vs. Sadibou Sy
Ray Cooper III vs. Jason Ponet
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