PFL 7 kicks off the 2021 PFL playoff season this Friday from Hollywood, Florida.
The PFL Playoffs are finally here. After a year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Pro Fight League playoffs return this Friday night on ESPN 2 and ESPN+.
PFL 7 Preview and Predictions
The event is headlined by the former Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald, as he takes on the previously-crowned PFL champion Ray Cooper III in the PFL welterweight semi-finals.
On the other side of the bracket, former UFC fighter turned pro-boxer Clay Collard is back on the MMA scene for a run at PFL prize money. Collard has alternated from professional boxing and MMA since leaving the UFC in 2015. After taking back-to-back decision losses in boxing, Collard decided to return to MMA and joined the 2021 PFL season.
Collard shocked the MMA world in the PFL regular season, knocking off former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in the opening match-up of the season. He comes in as a slight betting favorite against the Brazillian Raush Manfio.
Let’s take a look at the rest of the main card for PFL 7.
Loik Radzhabov vs. Alexander Martinez Preview
Former PFL finalist Loik Radzhabov returns to the PFL playoffs this season against the Paraguayan-Canadian Alexander Martinez. The two fighters met in the opening match-up of the lightweight regular season, with Martinez picking up the controversial decision victory over Radzhabov. Now, the two will square off in a highly-anticipated rematch at PFL 7 with a chance at the PFL finals on the line.
Radzhabov is 3-3-1 since his PFL debut back in 2019, with two of his three wins and all three losses coming by way of decision. Martinez is just 8-1 as a professional, with a 1-1 record since joining the PFL this season. Martinez has gone the distance in both of his PFL appearances, while Radzhabov has gone the distance in 6 of his 7 trips to the PFL cage.
Martinez holds the win over Radzhabov in their first meeting, but the prevailing opinion among MMA observers is that Radzhabov should have gotten the decision.
If Radzhabov makes the proper adjustments and finds a way to leave the judges out of the equation, he should be able to pick up the win and advantage to the lightweight finals. However, Martinez has a tricky style for the Tajik to deal with. He is very dangerous off of his back, which is probably why he was given the nod in their first meeting. Overall, Radzhabov is going to have to stay outside of the guard of Martinez, and his best path to victory is to keep the fight standing. If Martinez can withstand the opening flurry from Radzhabov, he might be able to suck out another close decision win. Prediction: Martinez by Decision.
Clay Collard vs. Raush Manfio Preview
Clay Collard comes in as the betting favorite against Raush Manfio in Friday’s second PFL 7 lightweight semi-final. Both Collard and Manfio are 2-0 since coming to the PFL, with both of their wins coming by way of decision.
Collard holds a strong technical advantage in the stand-up match-up with Manfio. However, the Brazillian Team Nogueira product has moved to American Top Team as of late and has built up a solid striking game of his own.
The key to this fight will be in the way that Collard is able to defend the takedown against Manfio. If Manfio is able to tire out Collard and get this fight to the mat, it will be him holding the strong technical advantage. The pendulum swings heavily in favor of Manfio if he can nullify the striking of Collard. If Collard ends up fatiguing late in the fight, the door for Manfio to get the finish will be wide open.
With that said, Collard is a high-level striker and has worked on rounding out his overall MMA game since coming into the PFL this year. If Collard can avoid tiring himself out in grappling exchanges, he should be able to find his rhythm and keep Manfio at bay with his range. As long as Collard doesn’t end up on his back, he has a decent chance of taking this fight the distance and picking up the win on the judge’s scorecards. Prediction: Collard by Decision
Sadibou Sy vs. Magomed Magomedkerimov Preview
The welterweight playoff field is set with a last-minute change seeing the Swedish Sadibou Sy stepping into the playoff bracket. Sy was scheduled to face Gleison Tibau on the PFL 7 preliminary card after finishing 5th in the PFL welterweight regular season. However, after Joao Zeferino was announced to be unable to continue due to injury, Sy was promoted to the 4th seed of the tournament and comes in on short notice against the Russian power-house Magomed Magomedkerimov.
Magomedkerimov comes in riding a 12-fight win streak and is undefeated since joining the PFL. Since his 2018 debut, Magomedkerimov has put together a 9-0 record and is the 2018 PFL welterweight champion. With five of his nine wins in PFL having come by way of stoppage, Magomedkerimov is surely going to look to make short work of the dangerous Swedish striker Sy.
Sy has a very rangy style and holds a 7-inch reach advantage in this match-up. The opening moments of this bout may be a little bit closer than what the odds indicate, as Magomedkerimov comes in as the monstrous -600 betting favorite. Sy’s dynamic kickboxing might cause problems for the Russian off the hop, but it shouldn’t take long for Magomedkerimov to find the back of Sy and get this fight to the mat. Prediction: Magomedkerimov by Submission.
Rory MacDonald vs. Ray Cooper III Preview
Rory MacDonald will look to add ‘PFL Finalist’ to the list of accolades that the Canadian MMA star holds. MacDonald takes on Ray Cooper III at PFL 7 in the second welterweight semi-final in the PFL playoffs.
MacDonald is coming off a controversial decision loss to Gleison Tibau, a fight that most MMA observers have called an outright robbery. Apart from the disappointing loss, MacDonald managed to secure his spot in the PFL playoffs with a first-round stoppage win over Curtis Millender in his PFL debut.
MacDonald now draws the very dangerous ‘Bradda Boy’ Ray Cooper III. Cooper is a high-level athlete who competed as a state champion in wrestling in high school. Rather than moving on to become an all-American NCAA college wrestler, Cooper took the path less traveled and hoped to streamline his career as a pro fighter. Since making his PFL debut back in 2018, Cooper holds a 9-2-1 record, with eight of his nine wins coming by way of stoppage. The 2019 PFL welterweight champion hopes to become a finalist once again in 2021 while knocking off MMA legend Rory MacDonald along the way.
For MacDonald, it’s been an up and down road since leaving the UFC in 2017. The ‘Red King’ MacDonald has gone 4-3-1 since his Bellator debut back in 2017 and hasn’t won back-to-back fights since winning the Bellator welterweight championship in 2018. Since then, MacDonald has alternated between wins and losses, and while he sits just one win away from becoming a PFL finalist, a loss to Ray Cooper III on Friday would see him drop to 2-4-1 in his last seven fights.
Cooper is a dangerous fighter with heavy hands and has the ability to mix up his wrestling in with his striking. While MacDonald is a very well-rounded fighter, the hitting power of Cooper may be too much for MacDonald in this match-up. MacDonald has had a tendency to go the distance in big fights, with four of his five Bellator title fights going the distance. However, with MacDonald’s recent run-in with poor judging, it’s more than likely that MacDonald will look to get the stoppage before taking this fight into deep waters.
If MacDonald wants to win this fight, he may have to do it quickly, as the longer he stands in the cage with Cooper, the more chance he has of getting knocked out by the heavy-hitting Hawaiian. Prediction: Cooper by TKO.