Back Moldavsky to Maintain Bellator’s Early Dominance over PFL

April 2, 2024
3 months

Ante Delija was on top of the world in 2022. By picking up a first-round knockout of Matheus Scheffel, he was crowned the PFL World Heavyweight champion and earned a $1 million prize. But that happiness wouldn’t extend to 2023.

A torn meniscus forced him to pull out of his first scheduled fight for the next season against Yorgan De Castro. While Delija was healthy enough to fight in his second fight, a decision win over Maurice Green wasn’t enough to get him back to the playoffs. Now, Delija will be forced to open this heavyweight season against Valentin Moldavsky.

Earning another championship will require Delija to start the season in San Antonio this Thursday by protecting the PFL’s brand. Former Bellator interim heavyweight champion Moldavsky will enter this tournament looking to position himself for winning a $1 million prize for himself.

After Bellator dominated a brand vs. brand pay-per-view earlier this year, some observers are questioning if the PFL fighters can hang with what Bellator had to offer. The best MMA news sites show the fight is currently priced as a pick ’em.

Moldavsky is the rare heavyweight who isn’t known as much of a finisher. He only has one KO victory in his professional career. Delija has a penchant for producing exciting fights. This is a hard one to see where it could head. Moldavsky may lean on his grappling to try and grind out a decision. Keep a close eye on the line movement in this one.

Bets to consider: Fight to go the distance, Over 1.5 rounds

This PFL event will feature the start of the heavyweight and women’s flyweight seasons. Here’s a look at some of the other fights on tap and what to look at from a betting angle.

Linton Vassell Wants to Capitalize on Momentum

Vassell may be disappointed that Bellator decided to sell out to the PFL. Throughout his past five, the 40-year-old fighter has put together one of the best stretches of his career. Vassell enters the PFL on a five-fight winning streak and will be tested immediately.

Russian fighter Denis Goltsov has been a long-time heavyweight contender in the PFL. All three of Goltsov’s appearances in the playoffs ended with disappointment. No appearance ended as rough as his loss to Renan Ferreira last November.

Goltsov, in the finals for the first time, suffered a knockout loss 26 seconds into the second round. Both Goltsov and Vassell suffered four knockout losses in their careers. Goltsov won’t be afraid to test what the veteran fighter still has left.

This one should be one of the more exciting fights on the card.

Bets to consider: Vassell by KO, Vasell ML, Under 1.5

Velasquez Hopes Third Time’s the Charm

Liz Carmouche, 40, stunned many in the MMA world when she took the Bellator flyweight championship off Juliana Velasquez in April 2022. A respected veteran fighter, Carmouche wasn’t seen by many as championship material at the top level. But Carmouche picked up a TKO win that day with vicious elbows and proved it was no fluke eight months later when she submitted Velasquez with an armbar.

Velasquez, 37, previously figured she might be invincible. She was 12-0 entering the first fight with Carmouche. But Velasquez took some time off following the second loss.

Velasquez will be eager for revenge but has already shown Carmouche is a tough matchup for her. The PFL, where elbows aren’t allowed, may open some opportunities for Velasquez. Carmouche, who has produced five straight finishes, likely wins the fight, but getting Velasquez at just over two-to-one is worth a flier.

Bets to consider: Velasquez ML, Fight under 2.5 rounds

Ditcheva looks to Match the Hype

Dakota Ditcheva made waves over in Europe. The 25-year-old undefeated British prospect enters this PFL season knowing a fight with veterans with significantly more experience looms. But Ditcheva has to be confident after winning the 2023 PFL Europe women’s flyweight tournament.

Ditcheva finished all three of her opponents to improve to 10-0. Ditcheva’s first opponent in the PFL regular season likely won’t be the type to push her. Lisa Mauldin is an American fighter who has competed nine times.

Mauldin has fought some interesting competition, including a loss to future UFC fighter Sam Hughes. She enters this fight on a two-fight winning streak, including a first-round submission over Desiree Yanez last November.

Ditcheva is a large favorite in this fight. Whoever is going to make the playoffs out of this division will need to maximize their point total with Carmouche and Velasquez in this division. Ditcheva is a ridiculously high price of -1650 to win outright. Look at betting a prop for this fight instead.

Bets to consider: Ditcheva by submission, Under 1.5 rounds

Talia Santos Rounds Out Deep Flyweight Division

Only two fights ago, Talia Santos took on Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC flyweight championship. Some people thought she won the fight. But Santos dropped a decision and followed that up with a close loss to Erin Blanchfield. 

Santos pursued the $1 million prize by heading to the PFL. Now, the veteran fighter will be matched up with Ilara Joanne. Fighting Joanne will be a major step down in Santos’ competition. Joanne is 11-8 in her career and was only 3-4 in Bellator. Joanne is stepping in for the more experienced Denise Kielholtz, who pulled out due to injury.

Bets to consider: Parlay Santos ML, Santos by finish

Here are the other fights on the card and some quick picks:

  • Heavyweight, Daniel James (+140) vs Tyrell Fortune (-166)
  • Heavyweight, Steve Mowry (+136) vs Oleg Popov (-162)
  • Women’s flyweight, Kana Watanabe (-305) vs Shanna Young (+245)
  • Women’s flyweight, Jena Bishop (-245) vs Chelsea Hackett (+200)
  • Featherweight, Lucas Brennan (-900) vs Dimitre Ivy (+600)
  • Heavyweight, Marcelo Golm (-345) vs Jordan Heiderman (+275)

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By Dean McHugh.