For the third week in a row, the Professional Fighters League will highlight two weight classes, as they continue their 2022 season. This week, PFL 2022 3: Regular Season will feature the women’s lightweight and men’s welterweight divisions, complete with returning 2021 champions Kayla Harrison and Ray Cooper III.
Harrison will compete in the main event against Russia’s Marina Mokhnatkina. The undefeated two-time Olympic Judo gold medalist has been seemingly unstoppable since moving to MMA, racking up a perfect record of 12-0. She has shown that she can finish the fight with strikes or submissions, as well as outlast opponents en route to decision victories. Five of her wins have come by TKO and five have come via submission. She will look to become the first woman to stop Mokhnatkina, whose two blemishes on her 6-2 record have both come by decision.
Cooper avenged his 2018 PFL championship loss to Magomed Magomedkerimov in the 2021 finale, notching a third-round knockout. He will look to start his 2022 campaign on a high note when he takes on Carlos Leal. Leal earned his contract with the PFL after two successful performances in the PFL Challenger Series. It has been ten straight victories for Leal, who has not tasted defeat since 2014. The two men square off in the co-main event.
The action kicks off live from the Esports Stadium Arlington in Arlington, Tex. with the preliminary card airing live on ESPN+ starting at 6 p.m. ET, and the main card following on ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET.
Kayla Harrison begins her 2022 PFL campaign against Marina Mokhnatkina; does the American Judoka get off to a hot start with a victory?
This is an interesting test for Kayla Harrison. She has largely dominated all of her opponents by getting the fight to the mat, opening up with ground strikes, and securing a finish either by TKO or armbar. Mokhnatkina is an accomplished grappler in her own right and comes from a Combat Sambo background, the same background as retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. This fight will be the first time we see Harrison look human, and she will struggle to get into a dominant position for the first several minutes of the contest. Ultimately, her precision and powerful Judo skills will provide her with an opening to wind up in mount, and she will begin to get to work. Mokhnatkina will prove to be sound defensively and will fight off all submission attempts, but, when the final bell sounds, there will be no doubt that Kayla Harrison earned the victory.
Ray Cooper III won the 2021 PFL welterweight championship with a devastating knockout over Magomed Magomedkerimov; how does he fare against PFL Challenger Series veteran Carlos Leal?
Carlos Leal has fought in some of the best promotions in the world, including Bellator and LFA. He is certainly not a pushover for the reigning champion to get the 2022 season started. However, he’s not on the level of Ray Cooper III. Cooper might be one of the best five welterweights on the planet and could very likely hold his own with the champions of other major promotions. This fight will be another showcase for Cooper on his path to repeat as champion. He is still on the right side of 30 years old and is only going to get better. The dominant wrestling of Cooper will be on display early and often in this fight. He will ground Leal early in the first round and wear him down with ground-and-pound before picking up a second-round TKO and the five points that go along with it for the PFL season standings.
2021 was a rough year for former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis; does he pick up his first win inside the PFL?
Unfortunately for Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, the answer is no. There’s no doubt that, in his prime, Pettis was one of the best lightweights on the planet back when he became the first UFC champion on the cover of a Wheaties box. Those days are long gone, and the UFC picked the right time to cut ties with the former champion. His opponent, Price, is somewhat of a journeyman with an overall record of 11-7, and he hasn’t fought since 2019. This would be a great opponent for Pettis to get back on track if he has anything left in the tank, but I fear that he is shop-worn for lack of a better phrase. This fight will be lackluster, and a gun-shy Pettis will wind up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision after being largely unable to pull the trigger throughout the contest.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Genah Fabian vs. Julia Budd. If there’s an established fighter on the PFL roster who could provide a real challenge to Kayla Harrison, it is Julia Budd. The former Bellator featherweight champion made a successful debut last year at lightweight in the PFL, and she has the sheer strength and power to perhaps put up some resistance against Harrison. It will be interesting to see how she fares against Genah Fabian, who’s only career MMA loss came against the aforementioned Harrison in the 2021 PFL playoffs. A win for Budd could set the path for a showdown with Harrison later on in the season.
Main Card (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET)
Women’s LW: Kayla Harrison vs. Marina Mokhnatkina
WW: Ray Cooper III vs. Carlos Leal
LW: Anthony Pettis vs. Myles Price
WW: Rory Macdonald vs. Brett Cooper
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
Women’s LW: Larissa Pacheco vs. Zamzagul Fayzallonva
WW: Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Joao Zeferino
Women’s LW: Genah Fabian vs. Julia Budd
WW: Sadibou Sy vs. Nikolai Aleksakhin
WW: Gleison Tibau vs. Jarrah Al Silawi
Women’s LW: Olena Kolesnyk vs. Abigail Montes
Women’s LW: Vanessa Melo vs. Martina Jindrova
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