Sports Strength

The 20 Best PFL Fighters to Watch

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is launching their NFTs so you might want to know a thing or two about some of their fighters fighting this year in their sports season format.

The Professional Fighters League (PFL) is about to close out its 2021 season in June. Then, the fighters with enough points to advance to the playoffs in the PFL’s season format of MMA will make it to the finals to be the 2021 champions. Being the PFL champ comes with a $1-million-dollar prize and an invite back for next year.

Recently, the PFL just announced the launch of their own NFTs. So, anyone interested in grabbing these collectibles will likely want to know about some of the fighters in the league. Here are 20 PFL fighters you should watch.

1. Kayla Harrison (9-0, PFL 8-0)
  • 2019 PFL women’s lightweight world champion
  • 2x Olympic judo gold medalist (2012, 2016)
  • Undefeated in her MMA career
  • 7 of 9 wins came by stoppage (4 knockouts, 3 submissions)

Harrison has been the catalyst for the women’s lightweight division in the PFL. The Olympic Gold medalist in Judo made the transition to mixed martial arts in 2018. She is the PFL 2019 lightweight champion and currently number two in the women’s lightweight standings.  She’s a favorite to win again this year.

2. Rory MacDonald (22-6-1,PFL 1-0)
  • Top-15 Welterweight In The World
  • Former Bellator Welterweight Champion
  • 14 Wins By Stoppage (7 Knockouts, 7 Submissions)
  • Wins Over Nate Diaz, Tyron Woodley, B.J. Penn And Douglas Lima

The former UFC welterweight contender and former Bellator MMA welterweight champion was one of the first big signees for the current season when the PFL closed out the 2019 season. COVID-19 delayed his debut but he picked up a first-round submission over Curtis Millender.

3. Ray Cooper III (21-7-1, PFL 9-2)
Photo by Ryan Loco/PFL
  • 2019 PFL Welterweight World Champion
  • 14 Career Knockouts
  • 6 Knockouts Over The Last 2 Pfl Seasons
  • Has Made The Pfl Welterweight Finals In 2018 & 2019

Cooper went from underdog when the PFL began to one of its top welterweights. He fought Jake Shields twice in 2018, avenging a loss his father had against Shields while cementing himself as one of the PFL’s top fighters. He is currently ranked number one, above MacDonald.

4. Brendon Loughnane (21-3-0 PFL4-0)
  • Winner Of 6 Straight Fights
  • 11 Career Wins By Knockout
  • 2-0 In Pfl Showcase Bouts In 2019

Loughnane fought his heart out on The Contender Series in 2019 and won a unanimous decision that many felt should have gotten him a UFC contract. It didn’t, but it certainly got him on the radar of anyone looking for new talent, so the PFL grabbed him up as soon as they could and got him into some fights. He secured his spot in the playoffs at PFL 4.

5. Bubba Jenkins (16-4-0 PFL 2-0)
  • Former Brave Featherweight Champion
  • 6 Career Knockouts
  • D-1 Ncaa Wrestling Champion

Jenkins is the man just behind Loughnane in the featherweight standings. After his first win this season, he said the final fight of the year would likely consist of him and Loughnane. The win he picked up was against the 2018-2019 champion, Lance Palmer.

6. Lance Palmer (22-4, PFL 10-1)
  • 2-time PFL Featherweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • 4-time All-american Wrestler (Osu)
  • 2-time WSOF Featherweight Champion

Palmer has been grinding through the PFL since before they rebranded. Before that, they were known as the World Series of Fighting and he held the featherweight title then as well. While his first fight this season did not go his way, Palmer has shown in the past losing is not something he ever takes lightly.

7. Antonio Carlos Júnior (11-5-0, 1 NC, PFL 1-0)
  • 9 Wins Via Submission
  • The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 Heavyweight Tournament Winner
  • Multiple Time Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Champion

Known by hardcore MMA fans as Cara de Sapato (Shoe-face), Carlos Júnior is another signee that came from the UFC where he picked up wins over Marvin Vettori, Tim Boetsch, and Eddie Gordon. Most of his wins come by way of submission and with the first-round submission he picked up this season, he’s definitely a light-heavyweight that should be on the fan’s radar.

8. Emiliano Sordi (23-8, PFL 7-1)
  • 2019 PFL Light Heavyweight World Champion
  • Most Dominant Season In Pfl History (5-0 With 5 Finishes In 2019)
  • First Fighter From Argentina To Win A Major Mma Title

Sordi was the 2019 PFL Champion and he used his $1-million-dollar prize money to help those in need in his home country of Argentina. Virtually unknown before then, when he got closer to the finals and won the season, he became a fan favorite at the PFL. He currently sits at number four in the PFL light-heavyweight standings.

9. Clay Collard (20-8-0, 1 NC ,PFL 2-0)
  • 10 Career Knockouts
  • Former UFC Contender
  • 2020 Boxing Star

Collard was an MMA fighter, turned boxer, then returned to MMA when he signed with the PFL. His first fight was against Anthony Pettis where he was the underdog. The fight was tough, but Collard showed his time away in the sweet science of boxing helped make him a better mixed martial artist. He’s currently the number one lightweight in the 2021 lightweight standings.

10. Anthony Pettis (24-11, PFL 0-1)
  • Former UFC Lightweight Champion
  • 18 Career Wins By Stoppage
  • 11 Career Knockouts
  • Former WEC Lightweight Champion
  • First MMA Fighter Featured On A Wheaties Box
  • Coined The “Showtime Kick”

Pettis has fought everywhere. WEC, the UFC, and now the PFL. He has held the lightweight titles in the last two promotions he fought in and has made it known he wants the PFL gold for 2021. His first fight did not go as planned but that does not mean he’s out yet. Keep an eye on Pettis.

11. Chris Wade (19-6, PFL 7-3)
  • Former Ring Of Combat Lightweight Champion
  • 2018,2019 PFL Semi-finalist

Wade recently picked up one of the most spectacular knockouts of his career at PFL 4 this season. The New Yorker is a favorite in the northeast region and his PFL and UFC fights are fun to watch. The win he picked up in Atlantic City will keep him atop the current featherweight standings, putting him on track to challenge for the title if he keeps the momentum going in the playoffs.

12. Natan Schulte (21-4-1 PFL 10-1-1)
  • Two-time PFL Lightweight World Champion (2018, 2019)
  • Unbeaten In Two PFL Seasons (9-0-1)
  • 9 Career Wins By Submission

Schulte is a two-time PFL lightweight champion that has always found a way to get to the main event on New Year’s Eve. While he lost to  Marcin Held this season, like Pettis, he still has a chance to get back in the mix if he picks up a win while the season is still going. He’s lost one before and came back to win the prize, so it can certainly be done again.

13. Genah Fabian (3-1, PFL 2-1)
  • 2019 PFL Playoffs Qualifier (#3 Seed)
  • 2018 Muay Thai World Champion
  • Both MMA Wins Came By Knockout

Fabian’s record seems green for MMA given the small numbers but so was Harrison’s when she began and became champion. In the 2019 season, she was supposed to face Harrison and had to pull out due to illness. That’s a fight that could still be in the future depending on how things go.

14. Claressa Shields (1-0, PFL 1-0)
  • Holds Multiple Titles In Multiple Boxing Weight Classes
  • 2012, 2016 Boxing Olympic Gold Medal Winner
  • Considered Pound-for-pound Best Active Female Boxer

Shields is new to MMA but 11-0 as a professional boxer. She is the only boxer to ever hold all four major boxing titles (WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO). She really has nothing left to prove in the world of boxing and, at 26-years old, is looking to have the same success in MMA. The PFL is a good place to start, and since fellow Olympian and 2019 champion Kayla Harrison started the same way, the move makes complete sense. She won her debut against Brittney Elkin at PFL 4.

15. Bruno Cappelozza (11-5-0 , PFL 1-0)
  • All 11 Wins Have Come Via Knockout
  • Former Jungle Fight Light Heavyweight And Heavyweight Champion

Cappelozza made a statement in his first PFL fight by scoring a first-round knockout in his debut over Ante Dilija in a fight where he was the underdog. The quick finish shot him to the top of the 2021 heavyweight standings making him the man to beat thus far in the PFL.

16. Tyler Diamond (12-1, PFL 1-0)
  • 7 Of 12 Wins Came By Stoppage
  • Member Of Team Alpha Male

There’s something about mullets and MMA that make for some scrappy fights and probably a pretty cool NFT. The young featherweight is definitely someone that brings the fight to all of his opponents. Even though he lost he fought one of the best fights of the season against Loughnane at PFL 4.

17. Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-5, PFL 0-0)
  • 8 Career Submission Wins
  • 12 Of First 16 Career Fights Came In The Ufc

Aubin-Mercier made his PFL debut against Held on June 10 at PFL 4. The former UFC fighter holds wins over Drew Dober and Anthony Rocco Martin. What he brings to the PFL seems to be the same traction of success he had when he was in the UFC. He fights out of Tristar Gym, the same gym that brought fans Georges St-Pierre.

18. Larissa Pacheco (14-4, PFL 3-2)
  • 2019 PFL Women’s Lightweight Runner-up
  • Defeated #1 Seed Sarah Kaufman In The 2019 Pfl Playoffs

If any woman in the PFL women’s lightweight division knows Harrison, it’s Pacheco. Her two losses come from Harrison, which means she beat everyone else to get to her. She seems to be gunning for a rematch this season since she picked up a first-round finish, and sits at number one in the women’s lightweight standings.

19. Kaitlin Young (12-10-1 PFL 1-0)
  • Former Invicta Fc Title Challenger 
  • Of 12 Wins, 8 Come By Way Of Knockout

Young beat a very tough Cindy Dandois in her PFL debut. She’s built most of her MMA record fighting in Invicta FC, the all-women’s MMA promotion where she fought for a vacant title not too long ago. She currently has enough points to repeat the same opportunity in the PFL if she picks up some more wins.

20. Denis Goltsov (26-6, PFL 4-1)
  • 2019 PFL Heavyweight Semifinalist
  • First PFL Fighter To Secure An Ezekiel Choke
  • Combat Sambo World Champion

Goltsov accumulated most of his wins in his native Russia before coming to the PFL. The average MMA fan might not have known much about him before then, but since he has come close to winning before, and currently looks to get closer to the million-dollar grand prize in 2021. Of his 26 wins, 10 are by submission with 11 knockouts. 

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