Professional Fighters League keeps its schedule consistent this week, but unfortunately has an event staged after a major national holiday. Obviously, that is something that usually causes an event to get less shine and publicity, no matter the organization.
The good news is that despite being only their third formal “season“ event, they’ve assembled their most interesting and ambitious card to date. This one’s packed with well-traveled and immensely talented fighters. The bad news is that it may not get the viewership that it could have otherwise received, but it is what it is.
The entire card is comprised of middleweights and welterweights to move along their regular season of fights. Most have fought for larger organizations and established some notoriety, and there are very few newer faces. The middleweight portion is of particular interest, as the group of fighters is a rather impressive collection of talent with a high level of athleticism.
So overall, we can reasonably expect some very high-level fights out of this one. There’s a lot of meat on this bone, so let’s get to it.
Biggest name is the one at the top, the inimitable Jake Shields. Long considered one of the absolute best welterweights to ever walk the earth — and for good reason — Shields (32-9-1) has faced the best of the best in his almost 20 years in the sport. This time, he has a unique challenge against Ray Cooper III (14-9), a Hawaiian known for his finishing instinct and kill or be killed approach. There’s a particular quirk to this fight: Jake Shields has already fought his father, going 1-1 in the process. Now Cooper takes a major step up in competition in an attempt to make a massive statement against a legendary fighter.
Co-main billing goes to Abubakar Nurmagomedov, riding a six-fight win streak that includes victories over John “Doomsday” Howard (more on him later) and LFA’s Matthew Frincu. His last fight was last March against New England circuit veteran Matt Secor. As his surname implies, he’s a grinder that can strike, and loves punishing his opponents for extended periods of time on the ground. This time, he faces certified Ukrainian finisher Pavel Kusch (22-5). Kusch has fought all over Europe, as well as China and the Middle East, fighting veterans such as Chris Fields and Hayder Hassan. Those two were losses, but his wins have been impressive, like this finish, or the impressive come-from-behind leglock win he had in M-1. The takeaway here is that he’s a confident fighter that can’t ever be counted out, and he may pull off an upset against a very strong and dominant fighter.
Former UFC fighter Rick Story (19-9) returns to action after almost two years to take on Yuri Villefort (11-5). Story was released from the UFC after being on the wrong end of a highlight reel finish against Donald Cerrone, but showed dramatic growth since joining the MMA Lab in Arizona, having a three fight win streak prior to that loss. That run included wins over Gunnar Nelson, Leonardo Mafra and Tarec Saffiedine. His hard-nosed approach will be tested against the Brazilian Villefort, who bounced back from a five-fight losing skid to a five-fight win streak. His last win came in under a minute against Victor Moreno at Victory FC 59 in December with a slick guillotine.
Former UFC and Bellator fighter Paul Bradley (23-8) will attempt use his wrestling pedigree against submission powerhouse Joao Zeferino (21-9). Zeferino’s coming off a split decision loss at the infamous PFL Daytona event last June against Herman Terrado. Yuri Villefort’s brother Danillo Villefort (15-5) will also be on this card as he faces UFD Dusseldorf prospect Abusupiyan Magomedov (19-3). Magomedov’s training at one of the top gyms out of Germany right now, and has 3 decision wins on his record. “Abus“ has some accurate striking and a slick boxing game, so Villefort could have his hands full here.
Former UFC fighter “Serbian Steel“ Bojan Velickovic (15-6, 1 draw) welcomes Sweden’s Allstars prospect Jonatan Westin (10-2) for his stateside debut. Westin is a smart fighter with a brutal pressure game against the cage, and some great ground strikes. Doomsday Howard returns against fellow UFC alum Gasan Umalatov (17-5, 1 draw)
Former Jungle Fight champion Andre Lobato (24-7) draws former WSOF fighter Rex Harris (10-3). Former Bellator and UFC fighter Bruno Santos (16-2) faces vicious Swedish striker Sadibou Sy (6-2). Finally, former Ultimate Fighter winner and UFC fighter Eddie “Truck“ Gordon (8-4) has his first fight since his UFC release against undefeated Shamil Gamzatov (11-0).
The weigh-ins have already concluded and can be viewed here. Fight card is as follows:
Jake Shields vs Ray Cooper III – Welterweight
Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs Pavel Kusch – Welterweight
Rick Story vs Yuri Villefort – Welterweight
Shamil Gamzatov vs Eddie Gordon – Middleweight
John Howard vs Gasan Umalatov – Middleweight
Herman Terrado vs Magomed Magomedkerimov – Welterweight
João Zeferino vs Paul Bradley – Middleweight
Sadibou Sy vs Bruno Santos – Middleweight
Anderson Gonçalves vs Louis Taylor – Welterweight
Rex Harris vs Andre Lobato – Middleweight
Abusupiyan Magomedov vs Danillo Villefort – Middleweight
Bojan Velickovic vs Jonatan Westin – Welterweight
PFL 2018 #3 starts this Thursday with the prelims at 5:45 PM ET streaming via their Facebook page, and the main card scheduled to start at 9:00pm on NBC Sports Network.