Olivier Aubin-Mercier (PFL MMA)

PFL 9: 2023 Playoffs Preview and Predictions

It is mid-week MMA, as the PFL continues their playoffs on Wednesday night with the semifinals in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.

The main event and co-main event will be the lightweight fights with Clay Collard taking on Shane Burgos, and last year’s champion Olivier Aubin-Mercier squaring off against Bruno Miranda.

The welterweight showdowns will also be on the main card as a pair of former champions look to make their way back to the finals to once again claim the title of PFL champion. Sadibou Sy is the reigning champion, and he will take on Carlos Leal in his semifinal fight. Sy made his mark in MMA winning fights via decision, but, this year, he has turned into a finisher, scoring knockout wins in both fights of the regular season. Magomed Magomedkerimov will take on Solomon Renfro in his semifinal contest, as he looks to become champion again after winning the 2018 PFL tournament.


Shane Burgos caught a lucky break to make the playoffs; can he take advantage of the opportunity and defeat Clay Collard?

If you’re a Shane Burgos fan, it’s a good time to play the lottery, because he caught the break of a lifetime, backdooring his way into the playoffs. When Raush Manfio and Natan Schulte put on such a lackluster fight that the PFL suspended them for not meeting an acceptable level of effort, Burgos was slotted into the playoffs, and he has a relatively decent matchup against Clay Collard.

This fight is likely going to be a boxing match in four-ounce gloves, as Collard has competed as a professional boxer, and Burgos does his best work with his hands as well. This should turn out to be both highly technical and fan-friendly with many extended engagements between the two fighters. At the end of 15 minutes, I expect Burgos to get his hand raised. He will have landed the more damaging shots throughout the fight and will be the more fleet-of-foot fighter defensively. After this fight, he will be one step closer to completing his 2023 Cinderella run.

Olivier Aubin-Mercier has been practically unbeatable since joining the PFL; does he continue his streak and punch a ticket to the finals?

Yes. Making the move to the PFL was the smartest decision Olivier Aubin-Mercier has made in his professional career. He’s certainly not in the same shark tank that he was at lightweight in the UFC, but that has allowed him to get his confidence back and also improve substantially as a mixed martial artist. He’s better now than he ever has been, and he is on his way to another PFL championship. He’s also a huge lightweight, and I have no idea how he consistently makes the weight.

Bruno Miranda is no punk, as he hits like a truck and has a puncher’s chance in any fight he is in. But, at this stage in his career, that’s really all he has against “The Canadian Gangster.” Aubin-Mercier will control this fight, with suffocating top pressure early and often, and score a ground-and-pound TKO midway through the second round.

Which two welterweights will come away with wins and meet in the finals?

It will be the two men who have won this tournament in the past – Sadibou Sy and Magomed Magomedkerimov. They will end up squaring off in the finals for a rematch of their 2021 fight.

Sy has never looked better than he did in the 2023 regular season. He won both of his fights by knockout, and that streak will continue against Carlos Leal this week. Sy is firing on all cylinders, and he will become the first man to stop Leal with strikes, likely in the third round after a close first two rounds that leave Leal exhausted heading into the third round.

Magomedkerimov is just an absolute monster. With all due respect to Solomon Renfro, this fight isn’t going to be close. Renfro is a solid prospect who hits hard, but he’s not a mature enough fighter to deal with a savvy, dangerous veteran like Magomedkerimov. This one probably ends with an early submission in the Russian’s favor.

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

There are several imperfections with the PFL as an organization, but the one thing that is a major downside of the tournament format is that we get a number of fights on all the playoff fight cards that really don’t matter. There’s nothing really on the line for most of the preliminary fighters, outside of maybe earning a spot in next year’s regular season. That being said, people should pay attention to the women’s featherweight fight between Abby Montes and Michelle Montague. Montes is just 23 years old and has a 4-2 record but she has shown a ton of potential. If the Mexican prospect continues to show growth at the same pace she has over her last few fights, she is a name to watch for the future at 145 pounds, whether she remains in the PFL or moves on to another promotion.

Fight Pick
Main Card (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET)
LW Semifinal: Clay Collard vs. Shane Burgos Burgos
LW Semifinal: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Bruno Miranda Aubin-Mercier
WW Semifinal: Carlos Leal vs. Sadibou Sy Sy
WW Semifinal: Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Solomon Renfro Magomedkerimov
LW (Amateur): Biaggio Ali Walsh vs. Ed Davis Walsh
Preliminary Card (EPSN+, 6 p.m. ET)
FW: Alexei Pergande vs. Shawn Stefanelli Stefanelli
MW: Mostafa Rashed Neda vs. Korey Kuppe Neda
Women’s FW: Abby Montes vs. Michelle Montague Montes
FW: Abdullah Al-Qahtani vs. David Zelner Zelner
FW: John Caldone vs. Nathaniel Grimard Caldone