Antonio Carlos Junior (L) (Cooper Neill/PFL MMA)

PFL 2022: Previewing the Light Heavyweight Field

The Professional Fighters League is back for its fourth season.

The show continues on its homes, ESPN+ and ESPN, and aims to give fighters the opportunity to compete for a world championship and a grand prize of $1 million. Here, we preview the season’s light heavyweight field.

Favorite: Antonio Carlos Jr.

Last year’s champion returns as the favorite here, and for good reason. Carlos Jr., who excelled in the UFC before leaving the company, ran roughshod over the competition in 2021. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt went 3-0 with a no-contest (groin strike) in the season, including submissions of Tom Lawlor and Marthin Hamlet, the latter of which was in the championship fight. He also bested former PFL light heavyweight season winner Emiliano Sordi. His competition will be solid this season, as well as familiar, but Carlos stands out as the top guy right now.


Dark Horse: Bruce Souto

Souto earned his way into this 2022 season by winning the PFL Challenger Series, viciously knocking out Travis Davis with a flying knee and punches. Honestly, he’s a guy I would have had on the roster without the Challenger Series. Souto has not lost since 2015 and has taken on tougher competition in recent years. He’s considered one of the better 205-pound prospects in the sport right now and could really surprise some people. He has a UFC veteran for his first regular season fight in Rob Wilkinson, which will be another solid challenge for the Brazilian.

Longshot: Teodoras Aukstuolis

The guy with the longest road to hoe is Teodoras Aukstuolis. The judo player has traded wins and losses in his last six bouts, which is why it’s interesting that he was added to the roster. The fights were against solid competition, including losses to former Bellator champ King Mo Lawal and Karl Albrektsson. His wins in that span were against no-name fighters. He has a tough first fight against Marthin Hamlet, and honestly, there aren’t many great matchups for him in this season.

Riley’s Preseason Power Rankings
  1. Antonio Carlos Jr. (13-5, American Top Team, Brazil)
  2. Emiliano Sordi (23-9-1, United MMA Fight Center, Argentina)
  3. Omari Akhmedov (21-7-1, DagFighter, Russia)
  4. Bruce Souto (15-3, Full House, Brazil)
  5. Josh Silveira (8-0, American Top Team, USA)
  6. Marthin Hamlet (8-3, Frontline Academy, Norway)
  7. Viktor Pesta (18-6, Sanford MMA, Czech Republic)
  8. Rob Wilkinson (13-2, Hybrid Training Centre, Australia)
  9. Delan Monte (8-1, Evolucao Thai MMA, Brazil)
  10. Teodoras Aukstuolis (11-5, Pancrase Gym Sweden, Lithuania)