Assessing the PFL vs. Bellator Card

January 19, 2024
3 months

Imagine if MMA worlds collided. Two promotions went head to head to see who had the better roster. Well,imagine no more. The champions of both brands are set to fight one another for the spoils of ultimate glory at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In addition to these bouts, there will also be multiple showcase matches.

Bader Faces Biggest Challenge against Ferreira

MMA news websites rejoiced at the sight of Ryan Bader getting yet another big fight at the age of 40. He was one of the first fighters to make the transition from the UFC to Bellator before Dana White’s company had any real competition. Bader has been a real success with Bellator, having held both the heavyweight and light heavyweight championships. It’ll be just over a year since his last fight when he fights his heavyweight champion counterpart from the PFL, Renan Ferreira.

The Brazilian has shown outrageous resilience over the past year, having lost his first match of the 2023 season and then having the result overturned to no contest. He amassed enough points to qualify for the playoffs with a first-round KO victory in his second group-stage match. After this, he went on to win the heavyweight championship in the PFL, with another KO win in the final.

While both fighters are champions, the difference might be as simple as activity. Ferreira has had four fights in the last 12 months. Bader could suffer from rustiness, in addition to being six years older than his opponent.

Pinedo and Pitbull in Featherweight Battle

The South American MMA landscape was forever changed when Jesus Pinedo became the first-ever major world MMA champion from Peru in his last fight at the PFL championship event. Celebrated and revered by his homeland, the man from Callao now has a bigger challenge on his hands as he’s set to fight Patricio Pitbull.

Patricio Pitbull, by comparison, had a terrible 2023. He fought two fights and lost them both, one being his challenge for the bantamweight title. He did, however, keep a hold of the featherweight title – having not defended it since October 2022. The Brazilian fighter has fought at a multitude of weight divisions and has shown an ability to win by any means, whether it’s KO, making his opponent tap out, or doing enough on the judges’ scorecards.

Ass-Kicking Machine or Dagestan Dynasty?

MMA news sites and pundits alike gave Jason Jackson little chance before his last fight against Yaroslav Amosov. Yet at Bellator 301, he was able to defeat the big Ukrainian, winning the welterweight championship. This upset the apple cart and completely tore up Amosov’s undefeated status. One week later, the Jamaican fighter was seen at the PFL championship event for 2023 with the announcement that the PFL would be running a Champions versus Champions card.

Jackson went into the cage after Magomed Magomedkerimov won the welterweight tournament. The Russian fighter had just defeated Sadibou Sy in the final by submission in a dominant display. Magomedkerimov had won the welterweight crown in the PFL for a second time in the space of five years – that includes when he took two years out of the sport!

The pair exchanged amicable words in the aftermath, at which point the ring announcer, Dan Hardy, promised the MMA world that these two would have to fight at some point in 2024; as such, the company hasn’t disappointed. Jackson has been known to defend his way to victories by winning fights by points, with the anomaly being his last fight. That defensive work might end up causing him trouble against one of the most aggressive active fighters right now, Magomedkerimov.

Lack of Pacheco and Cyborg Upsets Fans

There isn’t a piece of MMA breaking news that can hide the obvious omission from the card. The MMA world wanted to see the PFL champion take on the Bellator champion, to see Larissa Pacheco and Cris Cyborg get it on in the cage. This Brazilian derby would be a cataclysmic match between the two women who have dominated their respective promotions for an extended time.

It could be that Pacheco is proactively trying to keep her distance from Saudi Arabia, with the event taking place in Riyadh. Pacheco is an openly gay lesbian woman, and the ultra-religious government in Saudi Arabia has firm stances that discourage same-sex activity.

While the bout could be announced at a later date or potentially receive its own headline slot on a separate card, it does, however, leave this event with a lack of female fighters. Undisputed middleweight boxing champion Claressa Shields is set to fight in her third PFL match as she takes on Kelsey DeSantis, a woman with a 1-2 record, who is making her promotional debut.

Saudi Fighters on Display

Saudi Arabia isn’t just trying to improve its GDP by attracting world sporting events (and some sports washing, too); it also has a side mission to improve the quality of athletes on the global stage. As part of the deal with many of the events that come to the country, some Saudi participation is a requirement.

Opening the card is a Saudi Arabian fighter who calls Leeds, England, home. Malik Basahel flies the Saudi Arabia flag but trains and lives in West Yorkshire, giving him an eclectic following. He’s set for an amateur bout against fellow non-professional Vinicius Pereira, a 19-year-old from Brazil.

Abdullah Al-Qahtani has already signed with the PFL but hasn’t fought in his homeland since 2019. Therefore, he will receive a decent welcome, having amassed an impressive 7-1 record throughout his career. He’s set for a match against the Indian kickboxer, Edukondala Rao.

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