The first round of the PFL playoffs continues on Saturday, as the welterweight and heavyweight divisions have their semi-finals in Cardiff, Wales (ESPN and ESPN+ at 11:30 a.m.).
The main event will be a bout between former Bellator welterweight champion and UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald and late replacement Dilano Taylor. He was supposed to be undefeated Magomed Umalatov against MacDonald, but Umalatov was pulled from the fight on Thursday due to visa issues. Taylor won his first fight of the regular season but was then defeated by 2019 champion Magomed Magomedkerimov.
The heavyweight seeded Denis Goltsov also dropped out of the semifinals with visa issues on Thursday. Matheus Scheffel will therefore replace Juan Adams on Saturday. Adams came to the PFL mid-season and scored a knockout of Sam Kei in his only fight.
With spots in the $1 million finals on the line, here’s how I see Saturday’s fights going.
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Dilano Taylor
For MacDonald, this could be his last shot at a championship in the sport of MMA. He will have a huge advantage in terms of experience and level of competition over his opponent and will have to make the most of it to make it to the final.
Look for MacDonald to grapple early and keep the fight on the ground, where he can keep Taylor from punching. Prediction: MacDonald victory.
Ferreira, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, looked distraught as he fought on his back in his last bout. Not only was he not a submission threat, but his defense also looked lackluster at best. And, he was downed with ease.
Delija also didn’t blow me away in his second fight, but he got the win. He has good striking and grappling with strong high level control.
I take the underdog at Delija here. I think his shot is better than Ferreira’s, he just has to avoid powerful shots. To do this, he can fight this fight on the ground. Prediction: Victory of Delija.
Heavyweight: Matheus Scheffel vs. Juan Adams
Scheffel was originally scheduled to face top seed Denis Goltsov, but now gets a late replacement.
Adams is a UFC veteran, but Scheffel has advantages in cardio and striking. He has to watch out for Adams’ early takedown attempts. If Scheffel can get out of the first round and avoid eliminations, I see him advancing to the finals. Prediction: Victory of Scheffel.
Leal started his PFL career in the Challenger Series with an impressive knockout in his first fight. Now, just months after his debut, Leal will make his PFL playoff debut in a clash with striking specialist Sy.
Sy does a good job of hitting from distance and has shown improved grappling and takedown defense. However, while his last two opponents haven’t been able to take a position where Sy is struggling, that won’t be a problem for Leal. He always advances with ruthless aggression.
Look for Leal to speed up the action with strikes and possibly get a takedown, where he will have a major advantage. Prediction: Leal to win.