The Professional Fighters League is back at The Theater at Virgin Hotels for the third installment of the 2023 PFL Regular Season this Friday, Apr. 14. The card features the opening round of men’s lightweight and welterweight action. In a somewhat unique format, the main card will air first, followed by the postlims.
The headline event on the main card features the 2022 PFL Lightweight Tournament winner Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who will be facing fellow UFC veteran Shane Burgos. Aubin-Mercier won four fights in 2022, capped off with a second-round knockout of Stevie Ray to pick up the one-million-dollar prize. Burgos last fought in Jul. 2022, when he picked up a win over Charles Jourdain, which was his second win in a row. His UFC contract was up after that one, and he has joined the PFL for 2023. Both men will be looking to pick up points in the opening round.
The card also features the 2022 PFL Welterweight Tournament winner Sabidou Sy, as he takes on the Jordanian Jarrah Al-Silawi. Al-Silawi was a former BRAVE CF champion, who joined the 2022 PFL season after winning on the PFL Challenger Series. He one in the first round of last year’s tournament, but lost his second fight to Magomed Umalatov. Sweden’s Sy, on the other hand, picked up four decisions in 2022, with the last one coming over Dilano Taylor in the finals. Al-Silawi is known for his finishing skills, while Sy usually outworks his opponents all the way to the scorecards. Both will need to get off to a hot start in their first fights of 2023.
The event airs live on ESPN+ starting at 5 p.m. ET. Let’s take a look at the preview and predictions.
Sadibou Sy made it through the 2022 PFL season undefeated en route to capturing the welterweight title; does he get off to a hot start in 2023?
Yes, but it won’t be a cakewalk. Jarrah Al-Silawi is a good fighter who sports a 2-1 record since joining the PFL. For Sabidou Sy to pick up the victory, which I expect him to do, he is going to have to be careful. Al-Silawi is a finisher, specifically a knockout threat, to anyone who is standing across from him. It isn’t that Sadibou Sy can’t finish this fight with strikes – he certainly can, as he already has six knockouts on his record – but recently he has proven that his preferred path to victory is to outpoint his opponents over the duration of the contest, in order to pick up a win on the judges’ scorecards.
The first round of this welterweight tournament will prove to be the most interesting opening round of any weight class in the PFL this year. With Sy, the returning champion, becoming a decision machine as of late, he might not have an inside track to the playoffs if some of his competitors get the job done early and score major bonus points. There doesn’t seem to be a fighter who stands out from the pack in my opinion, which makes every fight matter even more than it already does under the current PFL format.
Magomed Magomedkerimov takes on PFL newcomer Ben Egli in the 2023 regular season first round; does the 2018 welterweight champion earn his third straight victory by defeating his debuting opponent?
This one won’t be particularly close. All respect to Ben Egli, who is a guy who has earned this spot by amassing a record of 14-4 on the regional scene. This fight against Magomed Magomedkerimov is just going to prove to be too much for the 35-year-old out of Oregon. When he is on, Magomedkerimov is one of the best welterweight fighters in the world. He should always be the favorite to win the PFL tournament, but a series of visa issues and injuries has always left him more of a question mark than a sure thing.
Assuming that the weight cut all goes off without a hitch, and barring any last minute snafus, this will be a dominant showing for Magomedkerimov and he will rack up a couple of extra bonus points by picking up a stoppage victory.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier looks to have found the right home in the PFL; how does the returning lightweight champion fare to kick off the new season?
Honestly, the only thing that is going to stop Olivier Aubin-Mercier from being a long-reigning, multi-year champion in the PFL is his size. It boggles my mind that he can make 155 pounds on a regular basis, because he is huge. Most times he is in the cage, it looks like he is one or two weight classes heavier than his opponent. That will probably be especially true on Friday as he goes up against Shane Burgos, who fought the majority of his career at featherweight. From the opening bell, the size and strength of OAM will make all the difference, and he will score a dominant victory full of a wrestling-heavy attack in order to nullify Burgos’ dynamic striking.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Tough to pick a sleeper fight on a fight card with this peculiar order of main card first followed by postlims, but one fight that stands out to me is the lightweight bout between Bruno Miranda and Ahmed Amir. Miranda has nine knockout victories, and Amir has seven submission victories, so something is going to have to give. It will be fun to see this one play out and see whether it is the heavy striking of Miranda or the slick grappling of Amir that gets the job done in the end.
|Main Card and Postlims (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET)|
|WW: Sadibou Sy vs. Jarrah Hussein Al-Silawi||Sy|
|WW: Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Ben Egli||Magomedkerimov|
|LW: Natan Schulte vs.Stevie Ray||Schulte|
|LW: Raush Manfio vs. Alex Martinez||Manfio|
|WW: Shane Mitchell vs. Nayib Lopez||Mitchell|
|LW: Bruno Miranda vs. Ahmed Amir||Miranda|
|WW:Zach Juusola vs. Brandon Jenkins||Jenkins|
|LW: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Shane Burgos||Aubin-Mercier|
|LW: Clay Collard vs. Yamato Nishikawa||Collard|
|HW: Denis Goltsov vs. Patrick Brady||Goltsov|
|WW: Carlos Leal vs. David Zawada||Zawada|
|WW: Magomed Umalatov vs. Dilano Taylor||Taylor|