In the early days of MMA, we’ve seen the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Shogun Rua win MMA tournaments, these ones though were one-nighters. They took years off men’s careers and maybe even their lives. Tonight, a tournament returns with high stakes. Inaugural belts and a million dollars to victors. This tournament is a mix of rising stars and seasoned veterans of the game.
In the headliner Ray Cooper III attempts to continue his streak of destruction against a powerful grappler hailing from Makhachkala in Magomed Magomedkerimov. In the Co-Main Josh Copeland looks to use his high volume wrestling and enormous frame to halt the surging former Bellator light heavyweight, Philipe Lins. In a light heavyweight bout, a battle of UFC vets as Sean O’Connell will try to continue his surprising run against multiple time BJJ world champion, Vinny Magalhaes. The always dangerous Rashid Magomedov returns to meet Natan Schrute in a lightweight bout. Steven Siler seeks revenge and championship gold as he meets NCAA Division 1 All-American and Team Alpha Male product, Lance Palmer. Louis Taylor and Abusupiyan Magomedov will battle to claim the middleweight thrown. Judoka Olympian, Kayla Harrison will return to the cage to meet Moriel Charneski.
See our staff’s PFL 11 predictions below.
Louis Taylor vs Abusupiyan Magomedov (Middleweight)
Dreux: A lot of “Magomedov’s” on this card. Anyways, this is a very hard fight to call. Taylor is surging right now after winning 10 of his last 12 bouts, after a rough start in his career, however it’s hard to look past the size of Magomedov in this matchup. He is 6’2 with a 78’ reach vs Taylor 74’ reach at 5’11. Magomedov has 26 career fights with caliber wins over Danilo Villefort and Anderson Goncalves. Magomedov is also on a 9 fight winning streak with 8 of those by stoppage and 6 of those 8 ending in the first round. At 39 years old it’s hard for me to pick Louis Taylor in this, I see Magomedov using his range and picking Taylor off late in round 2.
Abusupiyan Magomedov def. Louis Taylor via TKO in round 2.
Connor: Abus Magomedov has been nothing but dominant in the PFL. He has outstanding wrestling, but he has not seen much of it as he has been KOing his opposition. He can throw creative strikes because of his confidence in his wrestling, making him dangerous on the feet. You never know what is coming, and where it is coming from. He may want to try to utilize his wrestling more in this fight as Louis Taylor has looked strong in his fights, showing that the veteran still has power in his punches at age 39. Taylor also looked strong on the ground when he needed to take the fight there. With the exception of a knee to the face of a grounded opponent, Taylor looked sharp, in shape, and like a problem for whoever is in front of him. With all that being said, I think Magomedov is too hot right now and cannot be stopped. He will be able to control the pace of the fight by keeping Taylor at range using his reach and take the fight to the ground when he feels it is needed. The ability to be unpredictable will bode well for Magomedov, when Taylor will be looking for his hooks, and may surprise some people with his ground game as well. This should be a great fight, and Taylor always has a punchers chance, but he is more than that with a solid wrestling background as well.
Abusupiyan Magomedov def. Louis Taylor via unanimous decision.
Lance Palmer vs Steven Siler (Featherweight)
Dreux: The PFL featherweight championship bout is actually a rematch from 2017 where Palmer handedly defeated Steven Siler. Both of these men have had a fair share of big wins- Siler has wins over Mike Brown and Cole Miller, and Lance Palmer has a win over Rick Glenn. I see Siler as the fighter who has had better competition throughout his 50-fight career, Chad Mendes, Dennis Bermudez and Darren Elkins to name a few. Lance Palmer is definitely the best wrestler Steven Siler has ever fought and that includes Chad Mendes. Palmer is a multiple time All-American out of The Ohio State University and wrecked Siler in their first meeting. Palmer doesn’t have the caliber of bodies that Siler has on his resume but he also has almost exactly half of the total fights as a Siler. If Steven Siler cannot fend off Palmers takedowns, it will go exactly how the first fight went. Unfortunately for Siler, I don’t think he’ll be able to stop Lance Palmers shots and Palmer will cruise to a rather lopsided decision victory.
Lance Palmer def. Steven Siler via unanimous decision.
Connor: This should make for an interesting fight in a rematch between these two, but their first meeting in the PFL. Siler has a fantastic ground game showing that off with submission wins in the PFL, one of which was a quick turn of events after taking a big shot that almost ended his night. While that is impressive, it is important not to forget how that unfolded, he did take a big shot that rocked him, and that not how you win fights. It is also impressive that he was able to overcome that and win. Lance Palmer won their first fight back in 2017 by unanimous decision, and has looked impressive in the PFL. This shapes up for a classic wrestler vs jiu-jitsu matchup to see which style matches up best. Having fought each-other before, it will be key to see what adjustments each fighter has made and how much each fighter has improved since they last met in the cage.
Steven Siler def. Lance Palmer via submission in round 2.
Rashid Magomedov vs Natan Schulte (Lightweight)
Dreux: I would love to say that this is a bout between two promising prospects but Rashid Magomedov is not a prospect, instead a dangerous sleeper. Magomedov was seemingly released from the UFC with a 5-1 record with convincing wins over Gilbert Burns, Bobby Green, Elias Silverio and Tony Martin, his lone loss coming from one of the best lightweights on the planet in Beneil Dariush. After his release, he took his frustration out of Thiago Tavares and throttled him in the second round.
Nathan Schulte is actually a prospect though, with solid wins over Chris Wade (2x) and Jason High, but was submitted by Islam Mamedov. If Schulte can stifle Magomedov forward pressure he could find some early success, but I think the experience and tenacity of Magomedov will win him the PFL lightweight title.
Rashid Magomedov def. Natan Schule via TKO in round 2.
Connor: This fight is hard to predict. Rashid Magomedov missed the start of the season because of injury but fought his way into the playoffs and has been on a tear. Magomedov should have the advantage standing but the ground game has not really been featured as of yet. The ground game is where Schule seems to be the most comfortable. Wearing opponents down with top pressure and looking to submit his opponents when they make a mistake. Magomedov has quite a win streak going at the time and seems to be the hotter fighter with his ability to make the playoffs with less fights. The urgency to finish is there, which makes for an interesting fight.
Rashid Magomedov def. Natan Schule via unanimous decision.
Kayla Harrison vs Moriel Charneski (Lightweight)
Dreux:Let’s be honest here, Charneski is to Harrison as Francisco Trevino was to Sage Northcutt. I could go on and on about how great Kayla Harrison is and how much of an impact she could make in women’s MMA, but I’ll let you tune in and make your own conclusions. Charneski is essentially a sacrificial lamb here and it could be brutal.
Kayla Harrison def. Moriel Charneski via submission (armbar) in round 1.
Connor: This division was created for, around, and to promote the rise of Kayla Harrison. No one is giving Moriel Charneski a chance to win this fight. I do not know much about Charneski, and this is no knock on her, but this is Kayla Harrison. She is a two-time gold medalist in the Olympics. She is two fights into her career and has an immense amount of hype behind her. Charneski could end all of that hype, but I do not see that happening. To beat Harrison you need to be able to stay on your feet, she has shown the ability to dictate where the fight goes with her Judo, but also versatility on the ground. She was able to TKO her latest opponent when submissions did not work, but it is not very often the submissions will not be available. It is just up to Harrison to keep expanding her game to become more rounded, and to add more weapons to her game. She will want to test these tools early on, however, I see her finishing with what she is comfortable with.
Kayla Harrison def. Moriel Charneski via submission in round 2.
Vinny Magalhaes vs Sean O’Connell (Light Heavyweight)
Dreux: This whole matchup screams Vinny Magalhaes victory and it should certainly go that way. O’Connell is very powerful and absolutely could shut Vinny’s lights out. Magalhaes is known for folding under big situations, TUF Final-WSOF final, but those fights were against Ryan Bader and David Branch. Sean O’Connell is certainly not either of those men but he is still a serious threat. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Ace’s striking is ever improving and even at 35 years old, is looking better than he ever has. Magalhaes will have a glaring advantage once the fight inevitably hits the mat where the fight will likely come to an end. I expect Magalhaes to either knock down or takedown O’Connell and give him his 7th loss by submission all while earning himself $1 million.
Vinny Magalhaes def. Sean O’Connell via submission (kimura) in round 2.
Connor: Commentator/Warrior Sean O’Connell, will be fighting in the championship after having a wild fight where he was seconds from being finished himself, landing a heavy hook and finishing the fight while still being wobbled. O’Connell has shown he can be a star inside and outside of the ring, but what has yet to be seen is how he will handle Vinny Magalhaes in the mat game. If O’Connell can keep this fight on the feet, he has a good chance to land one of his power punches that hit the lights on a fighters night. The only problem is that Magalhaes is no slouch on the feet either, and should be much better in his Jiu-Jitsu game. I think that one way or another the fight will move to the mat with a knockdown from either fighter, or Magalhaes taking the fight there. O’Connell showed that he is willing to fight to the end on the feet, but we will have to see his toughness in the ground game and whether or not he can defend against the submission attempts from Magalhaes.
Vinny Magalhaes def. Sean O’Connell via submission in round 2.
Philipe Lins vs Josh Copeland (Heavyweight)
Dreux: Both men weren’t exactly impressive coming into the tournament. Lins was on a 2-2 stretch as a light heavyweight and Copeland was cleaned out. Lins’ resume is slightly more impressive than Copeland’s. His early light heavyweight career was stocked with bouts against Liam McGeary, Phil Davis and Vadim Nemkov. All of which were losses but they were far from blowouts. This move to heavyweight might be just what the doctor ordered after he essentially ran through the PFL tournament over Jared Rosholt and Alec Nicholson and then submitted Alencar. He may be giving up some size but expect this to be similar to how Jack May dealt with Copeland. Quick and Violent. Copeland is a tough wrestler and a grinder at that, but Lins has been there before and I’m worried that he won’t be able to take the early onslaught.
Philipe Lins def. Josh Copeland via KO in round 1.
Connor: Do. Not. Blink. As is the case with most heavyweight fights, this one could be over quickly. What to watch for is how Copeland loves to swing his overhand right, but there is good reason for that since he has a tendency to end fights. His KO in the semi-finals ended abruptly with an overhand right that left his opponent staring at the ceiling. The fight was over before he hit the ground. His wins in the PFL have often been due to landing the heavy overhand on the chin, but has also shown that he takes some shots that his corner probably would rather he not take. Lins like to swing wide looping hooks that can be equally as devastating. Like I said, this one could be over quick. It just depends on who lands the big shots more often.
Josh Copeland def. Philipe Lins via KO in round 1.
Ray Cooper III vs Magomed Magomedkerimov (Welterweight)
Dreux: This fight will go one of two ways, Ray Cooper by thunderous KO or Magomedkerimov by a smothering submission late in the fight. Magomedkerimov has all the tools to slow the fire in Cooper; strong wrestling, great jiu jitsu, has never been knocked out in his career and is the bigger fighter. Cooper fared well against a wrestler and jiu jitsu fighter in Jake Shields, pummeling the UFC vet with ease. Cooper will stuff a few takedowns before landing a few big shots to put the Russian away early.
Ray Cooper III def. Magomed Magomedkerimov via TKO in round 1.
Connor: The one problem with having crazy KO power like Ray Cooper III, is that you use it. That sounds weird, but what I mean is that he swings with all his power in every punch, and can swing wildly at times, that can wear you out as a fighter. No doubt that if he does connect, it usually does not go well for his opponent. With Magomedkerimov being the taller fighter, he should try to keep his distance from Cooper and use his range. Cooper has an excellent wrestling pedigree, but that may fade if he tires. I think Cooper III wins quickly or Magomedkerimov wears him down and wins later in the fight, whether it be a late finish or a decision. This could be the fight of the night, so it is hard to choose between two guys who have looked incredible while at the PFL. I think there will be some back and forth action for sure with both fighters landing shots, and the fighter with dominant ground position should win this battle.
Ray Cooper II def. Magomed Magomedkerimov via TKO in round 1.