The first round of the PFL playoffs continues on Saturday, as the welterweight and heavyweight divisions have their semifinal matchups 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. It was supposed to be undefeated Magomed Umalatov taking on MacDonald, but Umalatov was pulled from the bout on Thursday because of visa issues. Taylor won his first fight of the regular season but then was defeated by 2019 champion Magomed Magomedkerimov.
Also dropping out of the semifinals with visa problems on Thursday was top heavyweight seed Denis Goltsov, so Matheus Scheffel will now take on replacement Juan Adams on Saturday. Adams came to the PFL in midseason and scored a knockout of Sam Kei in his only bout.
With spots in the $1 million finals on the line, here’s how I see Saturday’s fights playing out.
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Dilano Taylor
For MacDonald, this could be his last chance at a championship in the sport of MMA. He will have a huge advantage in experience and level of competition over his opponent and will need to use every bit of it in order to get to the final.
Look for MacDonald to wrestle early and keep the fight on the floor, where he can keep Taylor from striking. Prediction: MacDonald to win.
Heavyweight: Ante Delija vs. Renan Ferreira
Ferreira, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, looked clueless when fighting on his back in his last fight. Not only was he not a submission threat, but his defense also looked lackluster, at best. And, he was being taken down with ease.
Delija didn’t blow me away in his second fight, either, but he got the win. He has good striking and wrestling with strong top control.
I am taking the underdog in Delija here. I believe his striking is better than Ferreira’s, he just has to avoid the power shots. To do that, he can take this fight to the ground. Prediction: Delija to win.
Heavyweight: Matheus Scheffel vs. Juan Adams
Scheffel originally was to face the top seed, Denis Goltsov, but now he gets a late replacement.
Adams is a UFC veteran, but Scheffel has advantages in cardio and striking. He needs to watch out for early takedown attempts by Adams. If Scheffel can make it out of the first round, and avoid the takedowns, I see him moving on to the final. Prediction: Scheffel to win.
Welterweight: Sadibou Sy vs. Carlos Leal
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 playoffs debut in a matchup with Sy, a striking specialist.
Sy does a good job of striking from a distance and has shown improved wrestling and takedown defense. However, while his last two opponents weren’t able to take to a position where Sy struggles, that won’t be an issue for Leal. He is always moving forward with ruthless aggression.
Look for Leal to press the action early with strikes and eventually get a takedown, where he will have a major advantage. Prediction: Leal to win.