What to watch for in the PFL’s second round of fights

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The next three Professional Fighters League cards, which all take place in Atlantic City, New Jersey, represent a key opportunity for everyone in each of the six PFL divisions who’s hoping to contend for $1 million. Desperate competitors will look to capitalize on their last opportunity to get into the playoffs, while contenders in prime position look to strengthen their position within their bracket.

Every matchup to come in the playoffs will be determined by the results of these second regular-season fights, but several matchups in particular should go a long way toward defining how the postseason is laid out.

PFL 4

Kayla Harrison (3) vs. Morgan Frier (0)

After her win over Larissa Pacheco at PFL 1, Harrison cried because a decision victory — albeit a dominant one over a late replacement — was below her standards. Pacheco was even able to take Harrison’s back and fought for a rear-naked choke, though she never secured it. Overall, Harrison, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in judo, showcased the athleticism, strength and skills that encouraged the PFL to build a women’s division around her. The Harrison-Sarah Kaufman matchup is the one most fans want to see at the end; let’s see how Harrison does against Frier, whom Kaufman submitted in the first round of their PFL 1 bout.

Sarah Kaufman (6) vs. Roberta Samad (3)

Kaufman is Harrison’s most dangerous potential opponent in this field. She’s a proven veteran who has fought in every notable promotion. She stayed patient and strategically attacked Frier on the PFL 1 card until she secured an arm triangle submission in the opening round. Samad’s inexperience (six pro bouts) could be a significant disadvantage against Kaufman, who has repeatedly stated she’s here with one primary goal in mind — to “spoil” Harrison’s party.

Magomed Magomedkerimov (6) vs. Chris Curtis (4)

Curtis surprised a lot of people at PFL 1 when he got a TKO win over Bellator veteran Andre Fialho. He’s a savvy veteran who has been waiting for his moment in the spotlight. But Magomedkerimov, the reigning PFL welterweight champion, is a monster. He’s the best grappler in the division and just a headache to deal with. John Howard, whom he submitted in the opening round of their matchup, is a smart, experienced fighter, but Magomedkerimov overwhelmed him. Curtis has to be flawless to get the win here.

Sadibou Sy (6) vs. Glaico Franca (6)

Sy fought at middleweight in last season’s PFL. At 170 pounds, however, he might be the welterweight division’s most dangerous fighter. Just ask David Michaud, who fell to his knees after taking a hard kick to the ribs from Sy on the PFL 1 card. Franca finished Gamzat Khiramagomedov with a rear-naked choke in the first round on the same night. This fight will likely be decided by where it ends up, on the feet or on the ground.

Ray Cooper III (5) vs. John Howard (0)

Cooper lost to Magomedkerimov in the PFL welterweight title fight a year ago, but his win over his cousin Zane Kamaka at PFL 1 was more proof that he’s capable of winning this entire tournament. Cooper should get past Howard, too. But Howard, a former UFC fighter, is desperate after losing his opening bout, so Cooper can’t take anything for granted.

PFL 5

Lance Palmer (3) vs. Luis Rafael Laurentino (6)

Laurentino, who has won three consecutive fights since suffering the only loss of his career, threw a vicious head kick to get a TKO victory over Jeremy Kennedy at PFL 2. Kennedy and Palmer, who is last year’s PFL featherweight champion and $1 million winner, are friends and former training partners. There might be some bad blood in this one as a result, with Palmer seeking a little revenge, although Palmer did change camps ahead of the second season of the PFL in order to work with Mark Henry amid visions of capturing another title. This fight is a crucial step toward that mission, after he failed to get a finish in his fight at PFL 2.

Andre Harrison (3) vs. Movlid Khaybulaev (6)

Harrison is doing everything in his power to get a rubber match against Palmer, a fighter he defeated in 2017 before losing in the PFL featherweight tournament semifinals to Palmer a year ago. But a decision win over late replacement Peter Petties in PFL 2 didn’t help Harrison in the standings, where he’s in a tie for second place. His opponent, Khaybulaev, is a dangerous contender who went viral after he KO’d Damon Jackson with a flying knee 10 seconds into their fight at PFL 2. Expect fireworks in this one.

PFL 6

Kelvin Tiller (6) vs. Denis Goltsov (6)

Both of these heavyweights impressed in their first fights of the season at PFL 3. Tiller ended his bout against Muhammed DeReese at PFL 3 with a sweet Kimura in the first round to secure the win and the three bonus points for the finish. Goltsov shocked the field when he hit UFC veteran Jared Rosholt, a semifinalist a year ago, with a quick left hook and then ended the fight with heavy right hands to his downed opponent. The winner of this bout will leave knowing he’s the top heavyweight in the field entering the playoffs.

Bozigit Ataev (6) vs. Emiliano Sordi (5)

Vinny Magalhaes entered his bout against Sordi at PFL 3 with eyes toward a second consecutive championship fight. But Sordi peppered him with a variety of shots to get the win and looked like a dangerous light heavyweight in that matchup. Ataev, 40, is the oldest fighter in the light heavyweight division. But in his first-round TKO of Dan Spohn on the PFL 3 card, Ataev proved that he’s a serious opponent who can’t be overlooked. This is a matchup between two fighters who don’t care for decision victories. They want finishes.

The rest of the PFL6 card:



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