In a sport like mixed martial arts, anything can happen. When a format with a regular season, playoffs and a championship is used, however, all bets are off.
Using this type of system, the Professional Fighters League has drawn the interest of MMA fans across the globe. And following its inaugural season that took place last year, the PFL is now back for its second season in 2019.
The regular season will begin on May 9, 2019 with PFL 1, which is set to take place at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY. The event will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and ESPN2.
In 2019, the PFL roster will consist of 68 fighters competing across six weight divisions. These divisions include the brand new women’s lightweight class in addition to featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight. And while four champions will be returning, 50% of the fighters competing in season two will be new to the PFL.
With that being said, the stakes are high and a multitude of fighters will have an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Let’s now take a look at five underdogs who could find success throughout the regular season:
Training out of Long Island, NY, 31-year-old Chris Wade signed with the PFL in 2018 after fighting out his contract with the UFC.
During his UFC tenure, Wade, an accomplished amateur wrestler, amassed a 5-2 record and some felt as if he would find quite a bit of success in the PFL. His first season, however, didn’t go as planned.
Making his PFL debut against eventual champion Natan Schulte at PFL 2, Wade suffered a hard-fought decision loss. He then picked up back-to-back victories to earn a rematch against Schulte in the semi-finals at PFL 9.
When the final bell sounded in his rematch against Schulte, Wade was confident and for good reason, as he led in almost every statistical category. It was Schulte who was given the nod via split-decision, however, leaving Wade infuriated.
Despite not getting the decision he had hoped for, Wade proved he could compete with the best the division has to offer and he could be a dark horse to watch this season.
The PFL’s welterweight division is undoubtedly one of its best, as it’s home to top names such as last season’s champion Magomed Magomedkerimov, semi-finalist Ray Cooper III and last season’s middleweight semi-finalist John Howard.
One name that may be flying a bit under the radar, however, is Chris Curtis. A former contestant on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Curtis has long searched for a shot on the big stage and he’s now received it.
At 31-years-old, Curtis is both well-rounded and experienced, owning a 20-5 professional record. He’s also won seven fights in a row.
Originally set to take on Louis Taylor at PFL 1 on May 9, Curtis is now slated to meet late replacement Andre Fialho. Curtis’ fan-friendly style is not only entertaining, but it could steer him towards success during the regular season.
Luis Rafael Laurentino
Making his PFL debut in the featherweight division on May 23 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, Luis Rafael Laurentino may be a fighter to watch at 145 pounds.
Given that the division is home to more well-known names such as last season’s champion Lance Palmer and former titleholder Andre Harrison, Laurentino hasn’t seemed to have garnered much attention, but he may be worth keeping an eye on.
At just 26-years-old, the Brazilian is already highly experienced, having competed in 34 professional fights and winning all but one of them. In addition, he’s incredibly dangerous on the ground, as 19 of his 33 victories have come by way of submission.
Laurentino will likely face the toughest competition of his career in the PFL, but it appears as if he has the skill to cause some issues in the featherweight division.
Bobbi Jo Dalziel
In regards to the women’s lightweight division, much of the attention is being put on Kayla Harrison, a highly decorated Judoka and Olympic gold medalist, and Sarah Kaufman, an experienced former champion.
This certainly makes sense given the accomplishments of both ladies, but it may be worthwhile to keep an eye on Bobbi Jo Dalziel. The 33-year-old Canadian currently holds a 4-0 professional record with three of those victories coming by way of T/KO. She’s set to make her PFL debut against Genah Fabian at PFL 1 on May 9.
Despite being less experienced than some, Dalziel has proven to be a skillful fighter and she shares two common opponents with Harrison, having beaten both Jozette Cotton and Brittney Elkin.
It’s also interesting to note that at 6’0”, Dalziel will typically have a noticeable height advantage over most of her opponents. That, in addition, to her skills could lead her to make some noise in the women’s lightweight division.
The PFL’s heavyweight division is one of its deepest.
With names such as returning champion Philipe Lins and veterans Satoshi Ishii and Jared Rosholt garnering attention, Kelvin Tiller could be seen as a dark horse in the division.
A 2018 PFL quarterfinalist, the 28-year-old Tiller holds a 10-2 professional record with three knockouts and six submissions, proving that he’s a well-rounded fighter. He’s also spent time competing in both Bellator and the World Series of Fighting where he gained valuable experience.
Last season, Tiller was eliminated due to the wrestling heavy attack of Rosholt, but prior to that, he had won back-to-back fights. Those wins included a TKO victory over Caio Alencar and a submission victory over Rosholt, which proved that he could hang with the division’s top names.
If he can put it all together this season, he may make a run towards the playoffs.