The PFL returns to action with the first playoff event of the 2023 season. Featured this week are the featherweight and light heavyweight divisions. The main event pits the number-one seed Bubba Jenkins against the fourth-seeded Jesus Pinedo. The other featherweight semifinal sees a regular season opponent of Jenkins, Chris Wade, stepping in on short notice for Movlid Khaybulaev as an alternate to take on Gabriel Braga.
In between the two featherweight playoff contests is a light heavyweight clash between Josh Silveira and Ty Flores. Silveira, the son of legendary American Top Team coach Conan Silveira has a combined fight time of just four minutes and 16 seconds in the 2023 season, notching first-round finishes in both of his regular season bouts. Flores went the distance in both of his regular season bouts, earning unanimous decision victories over Delan Monte and Dan Spohn. Flores is likely looking to take this fight into the later rounds to try and test the cardio of Silveira and push him into deep waters for the first time this year.
The preliminary card airs live from the Boeing Center at Tech Port in San Antonio, Tex. on ESPN+ starting at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET.
Bubba Jenkins earned the number-one seed with a remarkable regular season; can he keep the momentum going and defeat Jesus Pinedo?
Bubba Jenkins is fighting the best he ever has in his career right now. He dominated Chris Wade to get a unanimous decision in his first fight of 2023 in a grudge match against a fighter who had formerly beaten him. He looked even better in his second outing of the year when he put Sung Bin Jo to sleep with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their fight back in June. Not only is he the number-one seed, he should be the heavy favorite to win this year’s featherweight championship.
Jesus Pinedo scored the biggest win of his career the last time he fought, stopping Brendan Loughnane with a knee to the head in the first round so he is coming in primed and ready to make a run at gold. However, he won’t be able to catch lightning in a bottle twice and take out the favorite. Pinedo is a hard hitter, but that will be nullified by the offensive wrestling of Jenkins. Pinedo will spend the majority of the fight working from his back, and he will have limited offensive output. A ground-and-pound stoppage in the second round will be the end of the road in 2023 for Pinedo, as Jenkins punches his ticket to the finals.
Josh Silveira hasn’t needed a second round yet in 2023; does his fight last longer than five minutes against Ty Flores?
Expect Josh Silveira to score another big victory en route to a million dollar prize at the end of the postseason. I don’t expect this one to be very difficult for the American Top Team standout.
Silveira has proven that he is a finisher, through and through. Not only has he won his last two fights before the end of the first round, but he has also scored stoppages in 10 of his 11 professional victories. This one will be his eleventh stoppage, probably with a ground-and-pound TKO. Ty Flores is a good fighter, and he has done well in his first season with the PFL, but his momentum stops when he runs into the buzzsaw that is Silveira, who will prove to be on a different level than any other 205-pounder in the PFL.
Chris Wade takes this fight on short notice with Movlid Khaybulaev out of action; does capitalize on the opportunity and earn a spot in the finals?
This season didn’t start out well for Chris Wade. He laid an egg in his rematch with Bubba Jenkins and got totally controlled over 15 minutes. The one area where Wade typically has an advantage over his opponents is wrestling, and he got completely nullified by Jenkins earlier on this year. He bounced back very nicely by picking up a first-round submission win over Ryoji Kudo, and he has a good chance at winning this playoff opportunity.
Gabriel Braga is an undefeated prospect, but he hasn’t faced the best that the PFL has to offer. His most recent win came over the shell of Marlon Moraes, who was long past his prime when they clashed. This is Braga’s first year in a playoff tournament, and I expect Wade to be able to implement an offensive wrestling game plan, aided by Braga being a bit overwhelmed in a high-profile and high-pressure situation.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The women’s flyweight bout early in the prelims between Ky Bennett and Chelsea Hackett. Full disclosure, I was in-attendance covering Bennett’s last fight in Invicta FC before signing with the PFL, so I’m more familiar with her than I am her opponent, who I have never seen fight live. Bennett is a fun fighter to watch, and she has finished two of her three career wins – one by submission and one by knockout. This will be an entertaining bout with a high pace as long as it lasts and is definitely worth tuning in for early.
Main Card (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
FW Semifinals: Bubba Jenkins vs. Jesus Pinedo
LHW Semifinals: Josh Silveira vs. Ty Flores
FW Semifinals: Gabriel Braga vs. Chris Wade
LHW Semifinals: Marthin Hamlet vs. Impa Kasanganay
LW: Elvis Espinoza vs. Keoni Diggs
Preliminary Card (ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET)
WW: Thad Jean vs. Ali Omar
Women’s FlyW: Desiree Yanez vs. Lisa Mauldin
WW: Anthony Ivy vs. Carson Hardman
Women’s FlyW: Chelsea Hackett vs. Ky Bennett
LHW: Billy Elekana vs. Chuck Campbell
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