Kayla Harrison (top) (Dave Mandel/Invicta FC)

PFL 2021 10: Championships Preview and Predictions

After arguably their most entertaining season yet, the Professional Fighters League is set for the championship event. The 2021 PFL Championships go down on Wednesday, Oct. 27, live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In addition to the six championship fights, four other bouts are on the fight card. With $1 million on the line for each championship bout, you never know what to expect from this annual event.

In the headliner, 2019 PFL champion Kayla Harrison looks to cash another million-dollar check against Taylor Guardado. Although Guardado has less experience than any of Harrison’s opponents, the urge to win a million dollars should make this matchup interesting. In the co-main event, 2018 winner Magomed Magomedkerimov takes on 2019 winner Ray Cooper III. Cooper will be looking for revenge after losing in the finals to Magomedkerimov in 2018.

If six championship fights weren’t enough, the PFL’s final event of the season features boxing legend Claressa Shields, former Bellator champion Julia Budd, and former UFC middleweight Omari Akhmedov. From top to bottom, the PFL championships have the chance to be one of the most intriguing fight cards of the year.


The event begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+, before moving over to ESPN 2 at 8 p.m. ET. Let’s take a look at the full 2021 PFL Championships preview and predictions.

Kayla Harrison looks to extend her perfect record to 12-0 and defend her 2019 PFL lightweight championship; does Taylor Guardado have what it takes to stifle the Olympic gold medalist?

Since transitioning from judo, Harrison has been everything expected from a true martial artist. Harrison’s dominant grappling and high fight IQ has put her in the position to win $1 million once again. Meanwhile, Guardado came into this season with a 0-1 pro record. Yet, here she is, three wins in a row and the chance to pull off the ultimate upset. If Guardado wants to come out with a win and the $1 million prize, she will surely need a few tricks up her sleeve.

Harrison’s game plan has been somewhat simple on the way to an 11-0 record. She uses her high fight IQ to stay out of trouble and close the distance. Once she gets a hold of her opponent, the end is usually near. She uses her judo to take her opponent down and finish the fight by submission or TKO. Although Guardado has won all three bouts this year, Harrison is unlike any of her other opponents. Anything can happen with a million dollars on the line, but Harrison should be able to get another first-round finish on the ground.

The first time Magomed Magomedkerimov and Ray Cooper III met, Magomedkerimov won by second-round submission; does this fight end in a similar fashion?

Magomedkerimov and Cooper first fought in the 2018 PFL finals, where Magomedkerimov came out with the submission. Cooper was frustrated, but came back in 2019 and won the big prize against David Michaud. With each winning the championship in the past, one of the two will win their second PFL championship. While still in their respective primes, both fighters went 3-0 this year on their way to the finals.

Cooper has gained a reputation for being a knockout artist, but still has his wrestling background. On the contrary, Magomedkerimov has made a living with his grappling, while also improving his striking. Although Cooper has reliable grappling, he should keep this fight standing. Magomedkerimov’s submissions are powerful and sneaky, which could catch Cooper off guard. If Cooper wants to win, he needs to keep this fight standing to use his explosiveness to his advantage. Overall, Cooper has evolved into a world-class mixed martial artist and has the tools to pull off the upset against Magomedkerimov.

Claressa Shields will step into the cage for her second MMA fight in a featured bout; how does she fare against Abigail Montes?

Nobody knew what to expect when Shields announced she would be transitioning to MMA. Shields put the work in and made her highly-anticipated MMA debut earlier this year. Although she got the win, Shields needs to improve if she wants to become a world champion. Shield’s second pro fight is against Abigail Montes (2-0). Montes is 21 years old and has the potential to succeed because of her aggression. If Montes can pull off the upset, her life will never be the same.

Montes is a pressure fighter who prefers to keep the fight standing. Meanwhile, Shields is a pure boxer who continues to evolve into a mixed martial artist. The issue for Montes is that her grappling is not dominant enough to finish Shields. If anyone wants to beat Shields, the last thing you should do is allow her to use those unbelievable boxing skills. Unfortunately for Montes, her only path to victory would be catching Shields off guard and finishing the fight by knockout. Shields should dominate with striking and mix in new grappling techniques to secure her second MMA win.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

The sleeper matchup is the featherweight championship between Movlid Khaybulaev and Chris Wade. After coming up short in 2018 and 2019, Wade is finally in the finals. Khaybulaev will also make his first finals appearance after his second season with PFL. Both fighters went 3-0 on the year, with each having the skills to make this a must-see matchup.

Khaybulaev is one of the best fighters on the entire PFL roster. Holding a record of 18-0-1, Khaybulaev won all three fights this year by decision. Meanwhile, Wade won two by decision and one by an electrifying head kick. With both fighters being durable and well-rounded, Khaybulaev vs. Wade may end up stealing the show.

Although both fighters are well-rounded, the classic wrestler vs. striker matchup will be present. Khaybulaev has become more explosive with his striking, but his dominant wrestling is the key to success. On the contrary, Wade has reliable grappling, but has an advantage striking against Khaybulaev. Both fighters have solid fight IQ and tend to stick to their game plan. With the talent between both fighters, it is difficult to see how this fight will not be intriguing.

Fight Pick
Main Card ()
Women’s LW Championship: Kayla Harrison vs. Taylor Guardado Harrison
Welterweight Championship: Ray Cooper III vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov Cooper III
Women’s LW: Claressa Shields vs. Abigail Montes Shields
HW Championship: Bruno Cappelozza vs. Ante Delija Cappelozza
FW Championship: Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Chris Wade Wade
LHW Championship: Antonio Carlos Jr. vs. Marthin Hamlet Carlos Jr.
LW Championship: Loik Radzhabov vs. Raush Manfio Manfio
LHW: Omari Akhmedov vs. Jordan Young Akhmedov
Women’s LW: Julia Budd vs. Kaitlin Young Budd
LW: Don Madge vs. Nate Williams Madge