The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the world of sports in a way that hasn’t been seen in the modern era. The coronavirus took out the NBA, MLB and MLS for months. It also ended the college basketball season and postponed the Olympics. One of the many leagues to be hurt by the fatal virus was the Professional Fighters League. Fortunately, the world’s handling of the virus has improved and the PFL is back!
The first week of the 2021 PFL season is underway. With the undercard wrapping up, it is time for the main card. Headling the Atlantic City event, former UFC Champion Anthony Pettis is set to take on Clay Collard. Adding to the night’s excitement, the ever-confident Bubba Jenkins is set to take on his childhood friend Lance Palmer. Not to mention, Marcin Held and and Natan Schulte will bring fireworks to the boardwalk when they enter the ring.
Lance Palmer vs. Bubba Jenkins
Betting Odds: Palmer (-400) | Jenkins (+285)
Result: Jenkins def. Palmer (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jenkins may have won battles between the two fighters when they were young, but Palmer enters the first fight of the main card as the betting favorite. With two PFL featherweight titles under his belt, he believes he can begin the journey to his third title with a win over his childhood rival.
The first round sets the stage for what we may witness later in this fight. The two-time champion started the fight by circling away from Jenkins as he landed a few left hands to Jenkins’ face. Toward the end of the first round, Jenkins was able to land a few kicks and takedown Palmer. For a wrestling champion, taking down Palmer is definitely a goal of his. Heading into the second round, Jenkins will look to do more of the same as he promised to knockout Palmer within ten minutes.
The second round went much like the first round. Palmer circled away from Jenkins and caught him with a few left hands. However, Jenkins was able to get inside, land a few strikes of his own and get another takedown. Over time, these takedowns will definitely wear down Palmer’s energy. As the two fighters enter the third round, Palmer will look for a knockout as it appears he is down two rounds.
The third round moved along much like the first two rounds. Jenkins dictated the pace of the bout with the two-time champion moving in a defensive manner. Once again, Jenkins was able to get the takedown and it appears that he has lived up to everything he said during the pre-fight press conference. There is no more estimating Jenkins in the PFL after this performance.
Movlid Khaybulaev vs. Lazar Stojadinovic
Betting Odds: Khaybulaev(-670) | Stojadinovic (+425)
Result: Khaybulaev def. Stojadinovic (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
One of these guys used to train with Khabib Nurmagomedov. The other guy did not. One of these guys has the fastest knockout in PFL history. The other one doesn’t. One of these guys has a record of 15-0-1. You guessed it! The other guy does not. For those reasons and more, Khaybulaev is the heavy favorite in tonight’s matchup against Stojadinovic.
The first round started off fast with Stojadinovic pushing the pace. Then, he missed a wild strike to Khaybulaev’s head. Then, Khaybulaev took over from there. At one point, he had Stojadinovic’s arm locked in between his legs as he teed off on his head. It looks pretty clear that if the fight remains on the ground, Stojadinovic has not shot of pulling the upset.
Much like the Jenkins-Palmer fight, this looks like it will inevitably end in a dominant decision victory. This time around, Khaybulaev will be the one with his hand raised. In the second round, Khaybulaev was able to wear Stojadinovic down with his ground game. While he didn’t get to tee off on Stojadinovic’s face, he was just as controlling as he smothered him for 40% of the round.
Khaybulaev controlled the third round much like he did the first two. One key to his success has been controlling Stojadinovic’s right leg during takedowns. He knows his opponent needs that leg to get back up, but he continuously locks it and keeps him on the ground.
Having taken out Stojadinovic, Khaybulaev could become a major player at featherweight. A matchup against Bubba Jenkins or Lance Palmer could be very intriguing.
Marcin Held vs. Natan Schulte
Betting Odds: Held (-320) | Schulte (+455)
Result: Marcin Held def. Natan Schulte (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
As a two-time lightweight champion in the PFL, Natan Schulte enters the fight as the favorite. However, one two-time PFL champion has already been upset. Could another upset be on the way? Well, it’s surely a possibility. Entering the bought, Held holds the status of being a “leg specialist” but Schulte believes he has a striking advantage.
The first round ran counter to what most expected. Starting off at a rapid pace, Held and Schulte elected to start throwing blows at the center of the octagon. While Schulte believes he has the striking advantage, he didn’t give himself much of a chance for defense. He did land a few good blows, but Held got the better of him and bloodied his nose. With that said, Schulte is the type of guy to take punishment and keep coming forward. Held has to be mindful of his energy and try not to wear himself out.
This is as close to a boxing brawl as you’ll find in the PFL. Held tried to get the takedown in the middle of the second round, but Schulte dodged it and popped right back up. As the fight goes on, Schulte is continuing to find himself in the range of Held. However, it looks like Held is starting to slow down. It’ll be interesting to see how the judges score this round. Schulte is certainly landed some big blows, but he’s taking some to give some as well.
Wow! The third round was an all-out war with Schulte seemingly pulling ahead. Somehow, it could still go in Held’s favor as well. For fifteen minutes straight, these two men stood right in front of each other and threw bombs. After two dominant performances, this is certainly the closest fight we’ve seen in Atlantic City thus far.
Held outlanded Schulte by nine punches in the three-round match and that appeared to be the difference. While Schulte was able to stagger Held at times, the judges ultimately awarded Held’s work rate and toughness. With that bout in the books, two two-time PFL champs have fallen tonight.
Clay Collard vs. Anthony Pettis
Betting Odds: Pettis (-590) | Collard (+400)
Result: Collard def. Pettis (29-27, 29-28, 29-27)
During the year-long layoff in the PFL, two names continued to dominate headlines. Clay Collard spent his year away from the octagon by winning five of six professional boxing matchups. Meanwhile, former UFC champion Anthony Pettis made a major splash as the biggest addition to the PFL.
Collard did what many expected him to do. As a heavy-handed striker, he wanted to throw a ton of punches and put the pressure on Pettis. In contrast, Pettis hoped to get off a few kicks and possibly get a takedown. However, the Milwaukee native was much less effective in executing his game plan. After one round, Collard is one-third of the way of pulling off the biggest upset in a night full of upsets.
Pettis opened up the second by landing a few kicks on Collard. For the first 90 seconds, it appeared that he was taking control of the fight. Then, it all turned upside down. Collard landed two big blows and put Pettis on his back. Pettis was able to get back to his feet and avoid a potential stoppage, but Collard didn’t let up once he got back up. One minute later, he landed another huge shot to the head and put Pettis back on the ground. Heading into the third round, it looks like Pettis may need a knockout to win.
It appeared that Collard was cruising to an upset win for four minutes of the five minute round, but things got a bit dicey in the final minute. Collard ate a kick and a knee to the chin late in the third round. For a few moments, it appeared that he would be in serious trouble, but he was able to get to his feet and finish out the fight.
Fighting the best match of his PFL career, Collard defeated the former UFC champion by unanimous decision.