After one of the best calendar years in company history, the PFL is back in action with the 2023 season underway this weekend in Las Vegas. Last year, we saw the likes of Brendan Loughnane and Rob Wilkinson win PFL World Titles, in addition to $1 million. We will see both champions in action this weekend against some tough competition.
Let's take a look at the card as it shows on Verdict.
Brendan Loughnane capped off a 4-0 2022 season with an impressive fourth round TKO win over Bubba Jenkins to win the PFL World Title. Loughnane is a Dana White's Contender Series alum, and after he did not receive a contract, Brendan made his mark in the PFL and has solidified himself as one of the organization's biggest stars. His opponent is a former UFC title challenger and one of the PFL's biggest signings of 2022. Marlon Moraes, while on a significant losing streak, looked fantastic in his PFL debut last year against Sheymon Moraes until getting finished. He will look to earn his first win in the PFL against the defending champion.
The co-main event will feature another UFC prospect turned PFL champion, taking on a former UFC title challenger. Rob Wilkinson had an unreal 2022, going 4-0 with four knockouts en route to a Light Heavyweight title victory over Omari Akhmedov. The only two losses from Wilkinson have come in the UFC, with one coming against the former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Wilkinson has found a home in the PFL and will face newly signed Thiago Santos this weekend. A loss to Jon Jones back in 2019 seemed to derail the career of Santos, as he has gone 1-5 in his last six fights. Despite that, Santos remains a dangerous fighter, and has fought the best in the world in the UFC. We have seen UFC fighters fall on hard times but capitalize on success in the PFL, and Santos will look to do the same against Rob Wilkinson.
Jotko is another former UFC fighter that will compete under the PFL banner this weekend against Irish talent Will Fleury. Jotko has seventeen fights under the UFC banner, so he brings a lot of experience and big-name opponents into the PFL smart cage. Fleury, who trains out of SBG Ireland, will look to capitalize on his PFL debut win last year against Anthony Salamone in what should be the toughest test of his career.
The 2021 PFL Featherweight champion will make his long awaited return to the smart cage against Ryoji Kudo. Movlid Khaybulaev, after capturing the featherweight title in 2021, was forced to miss the 2022 season due to an injury. It will be interesting to see how Movlid looks in his return, and if it is anything like the fighter we saw two years ago, he will be another talent that has what it takes to make a run for the final later this year. On the other hand, Kudo has fought better competition throughout his run in the PFL, against the likes of Brendan Loughnane and Bubba Jenkins, but his last win came last year when he stopped Alejandro Flores in the second round during the 2022 regular season.
The main card opener, is a banger to say the least. Chris Wade and Bubba Jenkins are two staples in the PFL that have consistently brought great performances. These two previously fought back in 2021 where Wade defeated Jenkins by decision during the postseason. This is a great main card opener on a stacked PFL card.
MMA fans have a great card on their hands this weekend, featuring three former PFL champions, former UFC title challengers, and some of the biggest names in the sport. The prelims will air at 6:00 PM, with the main card going live at 9:00 PM on ESPN/ESPN+.