After the debut of the inaugural PFL “season,” two things become immediately evident: the organization is scooping up talent known to fans for fun matchups, and the format for tournament may be strange, but it’s leading to some intriguing possibilities.
While I’m not a fan of the scoring system right now, the fights have delivered. The talent they’ve scouted and signed is legitimate, and the matchmaking has made a lot of these fights to pick. Not a complaint, that’s a good problem to have for any organization. We just need to see how it all shakes out given the ruleset.
Top of the card features former Bellator champion and former UFC talent Will Brooks (18-4) working on defeating former PRIDE, M-1, DREAM, and World Series of Fighting fighter Luiz Firmino (20-8). Firmino started his career with a handful of submission finishes. He’s mostly won his bouts by decision, but managed to score a finish after nailing Eddy Ellis with a big left hand for a TKO victory. He’s got slick submission grappling, an active guard, good boxing skills and decent leg kicks with good use of timing and in-and-out movement. Brooks turned many heads in Bellator after edging out a decision against Michael Chandler, but settling doubts by brutalizing him in the rematch. That led to his 1-3 UFC run, which was unfortunately not representative of his skill or potential. He’s still the reliable super-athlete wrestleboxer, who is comfortable switching phases and continuously punishing opponents with strikes no matter where they end up while on the ground.
Co-main billing goes to former UFC and WSOF fighter Brian Foster (27-10), who faces fellow former UFC fighter Ramsey Nijem (9-6). At age 34, Foster remains an opportunistic kickboxer with competent takedown defense and good fight IQ. This will be his first fight since his submission loss to Jon Fitch last in June of last year. Nijem is still a heavy hitter, even at this stage of his career.
Olympic legend Kayla Harrison makes her MMA debut against Brittney Elkin (3-4). Elkin’s had some very brutal fights, including losses to Amanda Bell (twice) and Kelly Faszholz, and a win over Gabrielle Holloway. She’s also an avid BJJ practitioner and a tough out for anyone. Harrison brings her Judo pedigree (naturally), but we have yet to see what her striking looks like and how her grappling will be adapted to MMA.
Jason High (21-6) is booked against Efrain Escudero (29-13), Ronny Markes (18-5) against battle-tested Sean O’Connell (17-9), and former Bellator fighter Brandon Halsey faces former WSOF champion Smealinho Rama (just one, not the infinite Ramas).
But wait, there’s more!
Former WFCA (Akhmat) light heavyweight champion Maxim Grishin (26-7) draws Bellator and King of the Cage veteran Jason Butcher (11-2), while former M-1 champion Rashid Yusupov (9-0) faces Texas’ “Boogeyman“ Rakim Cleveland (18-9, 1 draw), while former UFC fighter (and former M-1 champion) Vinny Magalhaes (14-9) fights against Australia’s Jamie Abdallah (7-2). Brazil’s Thiago Tavares (21-7, draw) faces former LFA champion Robert Watley (10-1), as former UFC fighter Chris Wade (12-3) collides with Brazil’s Natan Schulte (11-3).
PFL 2018 #2: Firmino vs Brooks takes place live this Thursday from Chicago, with prelims starting at 5:40pm EDT and streaming via PFL’s Facebook page. Main card starts at 9pm on NBC Sports.