The 2019 PFL season continues with light heavyweights and heavyweights in action at PFL 3. Both divisions will be crowning a new champion this season, as light heavyweight king Sean O’Connell retired and became the lead play-by-play announcer for the PFL, and heavyweight champ Philipe Lins withdrew from the season due to injury.
Jiu Jitsu master Vinny Magalhaes back for elusive light heavyweight title • ESPN+: Magalhaes, a former jiu jitsu world champion, finished his first four opponents last season, each in less than 2 minutes. He then lost to Sean O’Connell by TKO in the Championship. Now Magalhaes is back to claim the crown.
• Last season, Magalhaes was electric in the cage. He led the PFL in submissions (3) and was tied for the lead in stoppages (4). His flying triangle kimura of Rakim Cleveland in the quarterfinals remains a must-see highlight.
• Magalhaes faces Argentina’s Emiliano Sordi, who had the fastest stoppage of the 2018 season – a 0:16 KO of Jason Butcher at PFL 7. This fight should be quick one way or another – 20 of Sordi’s 25 career fights ended in the 1st rd.
Undefeated light heavyweight Jordan Johnson leads new PFL 3 contenders • ESPN+: Johnson enters the PFL with a perfect 10-0 record, coming off a 4-0 run with the UFC. The former Univ. of Iowa wrestler takes on Russian Maxim Grishin, who won both of his 2018 regular season fights by stoppage.
“The Spartan” puts his aggressive style on display in featured fight on ESPN2 • ESPN2: Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson was one of the most exciting fighters in the league last season – all 4 of his fights ended in knockout, with Nicholson winning 2 of them. Most would point to his aggression as his downfall in the other two. Will he make any adjustments this season or still come out with reckless abandon? His flying knee KO at PFL 1 last season was one of the highlights of the year across all of MMA.
• Nicholson always weighed in on the small side of the heavyweight division last season, but he’s gained significant weight in the offseason, and comes back a much bigger fighter.
• Nicholson clashes with the man who earned the #1 heavyweight seed after the regular season last year – Francimar Barroso. The Brazilian secured two 1st round stoppages to claim the top spot, but was upset in the quarterfinals.
Rematch of wild 2018 light heavyweight clash - Dan “The Dragon” Spohn vs. Veteran Bozigit “Volk” Ataev • ESPN2: At PFL 2 last season, Ataev was beating Spohn heading into the 3rd round. With just 29 seconds left in the fight, Spohn caught Ataev and secured the TKO. Ataev is the oldest fighter in the league at 40 years old.
• Russian fighters went 5-0 at PFL 2. At PFL 3, 7 Russian fighters will take to the cage, including 4 new contenders.
Heavy Hitters square off - “Mama’s Boy” vs. “Mo Muscle” • ESPN+: Kelvin Tiller aka “Mama’s Boy” is 10-2 and had one of the KOs last season with his knockout of Caio Alencar at PFL 1. His mother Patricia Rains is his biggest fan and most vocal supporter, hence his nickname.
• Muhammed “Mo Muscle” Dereese is undefeated at 7-0, and earned his spot in the league after two 1st round knockouts as an alternate last season.
Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii takes aim at heavyweight division • ESPN+: Ishii joins Kayla Harrison as Olympic judo gold medalists competing in the PFL. Ishii won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games representing Japan. Ishii has 10 wins by submission, and he’s already been busy this year, notching 3 victories. He now represents Croatia, where he trains with MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop, who he actually fought twice against earlier in his career - Cro Cop won both by knockout. Ishii takes on another new PFLer – Zeke Tuinei-Wily.