The PFL heads to the Atlantic City, New Jersey this Thursday where the women’s lightweight and men’s welterweight divisions take centre stage. PFL 4 will hold the second, and final, regular season fights for the divisions, meaning stakes are at an all-time high. The four-fight main card pits former champions, former Olympians, and UFC veterans against each other, as they take their last shot at earning a playoff spot. Here’s what’s happening on the main card:
Ray Cooper III (18-6); 1-0 this season; (4th place) vs John Howard (27-15-1); 0-1 this season; (9th place)
Ray Cooper III took the welterweight division by storm last year, going 4-0 with 4 straight finishes before losing in the PFL Championship rounds. Despite the loss, he is still one of the best welterweights in the organization and a threat to win the title this year. He is coming off a second-round submission win against Zane Kamaka at PFL 1, and with another finish on Thursday, he could potentially lock up the number 1 seed for the second straight season.
John Howard on the other hand, has not been as successful. While a 14-fight UFC Veteran, he has hit a rough patch in his career, going 1-2-1 in his last four fights. He lost by submission at PFL 1 and needs a win if he wants any shot at the playoffs.
Sarah Kaufman (21-4); 1-0 this season; (1st place) vs Roberta Samad (5-1); 1-0 this season; (T-2nd place)
***UPDATE: Due Roberta Samad missing weight, the fight has been cancelled and Kaufman will receive three points and progress to the next stage***
Sarah Kaufman, a 25-fight veteran, is by far the most experienced fighter in the women’s lightweight division. Not only is she a 4-fight UFC veteran, but she holds wins over legends like Liz Carmouche and Former UFC Bantamweight Champion Meisha Tate. She made quick work of her opponent at PFL 1, submitting Morgan Frier with an Arm-Triangle Choke 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the first round. A similar performance would not only guarantee her a spot in the playoffs but could also cement her spot as the top seed in the tournament.
While Roberta Samad is the clear underdog in this fight, she’s not a walk in the park either. Samad is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and displayed her superior grappling in her win against Moriel Charneski at PFL 1. With 3 of Kaufman’s 4 losses coming by way of submission, this could prove to be a dangerous matchup for Kaufman. If the fight goes to the ground, Samad could pull off the upset and cement herself in the playoffs.
Kayla Harrison (4-0); 1-0 this season (T-2nd place) vs Morgan Frier (4-2); 0-1 this season; (T-5th place)
Kayla Harrison is easily the most hyped women’s fighter in PFL. She won an Olympic Gold Medal in Judo at the 2012 Olympics and has transitioned smoothly into MMA. She won her first regular season fight at PFL 1 by decision, a result that led her to tears as she exited the cage. While a win on Thursday would be good enough for Harrison to make the playoffs, she will surely be looking to finish Frier.
Morgan Frier is an aggressive and exciting fighter with all four of her wins coming in under a minute. She is coming off a submission loss to Sarah Kaufman at PFL 1 and is in desperate need of a win here. It is likely she will come out aggressive and try to finish the former Olympian before Harrison can manage to find her rhythm. If this works, she can make major waves in the women’s lightweight division.
Magomed Magomedkerimov (24-5); 1-0 this season; (T-1st place) vs Chris Curtis (21-5) 1-0 this season; (5th place)
Magomed Magomedkerimov is one of the best fighters in the PFL. While known for his wrestling, Magomedkerimov is still pretty dangerous on his feet, with 10 of his 24 wins coming by knockout. The Dagestani born fighter actually went 5-0 last season, finishing Ray Cooper III in the 2nd round of the championship to claim the PFL Welterweight belt. He made quick work of John Howard this year at PFL 1, catching him in a guillotine in the first round. Magomedkerimov looks to extend his winning streak to 10 this weekend and lock up the top seed in the tournament.
However, standing across from him in the cage is another top welterweight, Chris Curtis. Last summer Curtis won on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series with a nasty hook kick in the 3rd round. White surprisingly did not offer him a contract, a devastating result that made Curtis contemplate retirement. Instead, Curtis decided to sign with the PFL. He won his debut at PFL 1 earlier this year, beating Andre Fialho in the 3rd round. If Curtis is to find success in this matchup, it’ll be on the feet. It’ll be difficult to finish Magomedkerimov with this strategy, as Magomedkerimov has never been knocked out, but 3 points would still be good enough to lock up a playoff spot. Plus, even if he were not to lock up the top seed, pulling off such a feat and beating Magomedkerimov would make him a favorite to win the Welterweight strap this December.