Brendan Loughnane (Eric Coleman/PFL)

PFL 1: 2023 Regular Season Preview and Predictions

The Professional Fighters League returns to Las Vegas for the first time since 2019 to kick off the 2023 season. On Saturday, Apr. 1 PFL 1: 2023 Regular Season features two PFL champions in Brendan Loughnane and Rob Wilkinson, as they respectively welcome two former UFC title challengers to the cage for a night of PFL MMA. The action takes place at The Theater at Virgin Hotels.

Both champions are on impressive winning streaks coming into 2023 and will be extremely confident going into Saturday nights event. The Brazilian pair of Marlon Moraes and Thiago Santos will look to prove they still have what it takes to make a name in PFL, despite effectively being well out of their prime. On Saturday night, fans will find out just how much both competitors have left in the tank.

The remainder of the card is a mix of top featherweights and light heavyweights, including some UFC veterans. Chris Wade and Bubba Jenkins throw down on the main card and will look to get back to winning ways after lost to champion Brendan Loughnane last season. UFC veterans Krzysztof Jotko and Impa Kasanganay are also featured on the card and will face Will Fleury and Cory Hendricks, respectively.


The preliminary card airs live on ESPN+ starting at 5:30 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Check out the preview and predictions.

Defending featherweight champion Brendan Loughnane makes his 2023 debut against Marlon Moaes; does the champ kick off the year with a win?

Yes he does. There is certainly a case to make that Marlons Moraes is the best combatant the champion has faced in his professional career. However, Moraes is currently on a five-fight losing streak, all by way of knockout. The Brazil native is on a full-scale decline and is certainly well out of his prime.

Loughnane is a prolific finisher, who is capable of knocking out his opponents, while also dragging them into the later rounds and pulling off a convincing decision victory.

Moraes will definitely be no slouch, but the champion will effectively use his reach and height to keep the distance and fire off combinations that score points as the fight progresses. As usual, Moraes’ toughness will be on full display, but he will suffer another knockout loss against the Manchester native. After this fight, Moraes should truly consider his future as an MMA competitor.

2022 light heavyweight champion Rob Wilkinson welcomes UFC veteran Thiago Santos to the PFL; what happens when these two sluggers throw down?

This should easily the most fun and exciting fight of the entire card. Thiago Santos will certainly be a step-up in competition for the light heavyweight champion Rob Wilkinson, whose last loss was against Israel Adesanya at UFC 221. Unfortunately for Santos, I don’t like his chances in this fight. Wilkinson is a devastating finisher who is sky-high in confidence at this point in time. Santos is coming off a grueling fight against Jamahal Hill and has suffered various injuries. He is 39 and probably one to two years away to retiring.

These two will exchange heavy shots for the majority of Round 1, and both men will find success in the stand-up. Wilkinson will take over in round two and start putting Santos into survival mode. The Brazilian will simply be overwhelmed and suffer a late stoppage or unanimous decision defeat at the hands of the champion.

Former UFC standout Krzysztof Jotko makes his PFL debut this weekend; how does he fare against Will Fleury?

I don’t expect this on to be wildly entertaining. Both of these competitors are decision fighters and score points to win fights, historically speaking. Jotko did fairly well as a UFC competitor and has tangled with some of the better middleweights in the UFC. This fight will go down to the judges scorecards and may result in a split decision victory for either fighter. Unfortunately, Jotko is not known for being exciting, and I would expect that Fleury will be weary of facing a stiff test in competition.

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

The light heavyweight bout between Cory Hendricks and Impa Kasanganay is going to get the card going with a bang. Someone is going down in this fight. Kasanganay is coming off two back-to-back knockout victories, and Hendricks will be a formidable dance partner. This fight will be wild and exciting, for as long as it lasts, before ending in exciting fashion.

Fight Pick
Main Card (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
FW: Brendan Loughnane vs. Marlon Moraes Pick
LHW: Rob Wilkinson vs. Thiago Santos Pick
LHW: Krzysztof Jotko vs. Will Fleury Pick
FW: Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Ryoji Kudo Pick
FW: Chris Wade vs. Bubba Jenkins Pick
Main Card (ESPN+, 5:30 p.m. ET)
LHW: Marthin Hamlet vs. Mohammad Fakhreddine Pick
LHW: Josh Silveira vs. Sam Kei Pick
FW: Alejandro Flores vs. Daniel Torres Pick
FW: Jo Sungbin vs. Jesus Pinedo Pick
LHW: Delan Monte vs. Ty Flores Pick
LHW: Cory Hendricks vs. Impa Kasanganay Pick