On the heels of International Fight Week, combat sports fans won’t get a chance to catch their collective breaths with many major promotions opting to capitalize on the buzz surrounding the sport. With Dana White’s Contender Series week three taking place this Tuesday, and ONE Championship offering Friday’s “Masters of Destiny” card featuring a mix of MMA, kickboxing and Muay Thai, there’s a mix of everything available for the most seasoned observers. Let’s dive into three cards taking place this Thursday, Friday and Saturday and which match-ups you should consider keeping tabs on.
PFL Season 2: Week 4 – Thursday on ESPN+/ESPN
This year’s season of the PFL has produced incredible finishes, added exposure through TV deals with ESPN and TSN in Canada, as well as an expanded roster with plenty of recognizable talent. On Thursday night the promotion will hold its fourth instalment from the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, NJ with prelims beginning at 5:30 pm EST on ESPN+, main card available on ESPN 2 at 8:30 pm EST.
A bevy of talent fills the card including seven UFC-vets and plenty of homegrown stars. The event itself is split between women’s lightweights and men’s welterweights with four contests scheduled at 155 lbs and six at 170 lbs.
Based on a points system, with fighters encouraged to finish early in order to seed higher for favourable position in the organization’s playoff system (see link for details), fights of note are: Sadibou Sy (8-4-1 w/ 6 pts) vs. Glaico França (20-5 w/ 6 pts), Ray Cooper III (18-6 w/ 5 pts) vs. John Howard (27-15-1 w/ 0 pts), Sarah Kaufman (21-4, 1 NC w/ 6 pts) vs. Roberta Samad (5-1 w/ 3 pts), Kayla Harrison (4-0 w/ 3 pts) vs. Morgan Frier (4-2 w/ 0 pts) and season one welterweight champ Magomed Magomedkerimov (24-5 w/ 6 pts) vs. Chris Curtis (21-5 w/ 4 pts).
Bellator 224 – Friday
Featherweight title in the main event, undefeated prospect Jordan Young (10-0) and former title challenger Arlene Blencowe (11-7) on the prelims; Bellator has stacked the deck in their return to Thackerville, OK. Prelims begin on DAZN and the Bellator app at 6:45 pm EST with the main card on Paramount Network and DAZN at 9:00 pm EST.
Prelims of note include SBG representatives Kiefer Crosbie (6-0) and Will Fleury (5-1) making their North American promotional debuts. Aforementioned Jordan Young will be taking on Joel Bauman (3-0) who’s riding a nine fight win streak going back to his amateur debut in 2016. Grappling ace AJ Agazarm (0-1) will look to rebound from his high profile debut in January, pairing up with Jacob Landin (0-1) who’s been away from the cage for over two years. Rounding out the prelims will be Project Spearhead Interim President and UFC-vet Leslie Smith (10-7-1) taking on SBG’s Sinead Kavanaugh (5-3) who’s gone 2-3 since joining the promotion in late-2016.
On the four fight main card fans can expect to see Ed Ruth (6-1) and UFC-vet Kiichi Kunimoto (20-7-2, 1 NC) open the action, with flyweight title hopefuls Kristina Williams (3-1) taking on Juliana Velasquez (8-0) to follow. The night’s co-main event will see former middleweight champ Rafael Carvalho (15-3) meeting Chidi Njokuani (18-6, 1 NC) and the above-mentioned Julia Budd (12-2) looking to defend her title against undefeated Olga Rubin (6-0) in the main event of the evening.
UFC on ESPN+ 13: De Randamie vs. Ladd – Saturday
Following last weekend’s highlight reel of a card in UFC 239, the promotion is set to return to Sacremento, California for the first time in over two years. UFC Hall of Fame inductee Urijah Faber (34-10) makes his return to the cage taking on LFA bantamweight champ Ricky Simón (15-1) in the night’s co-main event. Inaugural UFC featherweight champ Germaine De Randamie (8-3) meets undefeated prospect Aspen Ladd (8-0) in what figures to be a title eliminator at 135 lbs.
Other fights of note include ranked featherweights Josh Emmett (14-2) and Mirsad Bektic (13-1), Contender Series alums John Allan (13-5) and Mike Rodriguez (10-3) as well as Benito Lopez (9-1) and Vince Morales (9-3), also graduates of the show. Possible FOTN contender goes to Andre Fili (19-6) vs. Sheymon Moraes (11-3) who each possess well-rounded skill sets and combine for a total of 16 wins by stoppage.
One fight that has seemingly flown well under the radar is the joint returns of inaugural UFC flyweight champ Nicco Montaño (4-2) who’s set to meet Julianna Peña (8-3) in the fifth fight of the night. Montaño’s inactivity dates back to her title win at The Ultimate Fighter Season 26 Finale on December 2017. A series of injuries derailed Montaño’s entire 2018 campaign and saw her stripped of the 125 lbs belt following weight cutting related complications heading into a scheduled title defence against Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 227. Ironically enough, Peña last competed in January 2017, submitted via armbar against Valentina Shevchenko in the main event of UFC on FOX 23.