The 2023 PFL Challenger returns on Friday night with its second event of the calendar year. This week will feature the lightweight division. A main event clash between Damir Ferhatbegovic and Elvin Espinoza is set to headline the show. The event will take place at a sound stage at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Fight fans can catch the fourth week of this year’s PFL Challenger Series streaming live on Fubo TV beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Espinoza vs. Ferhatbegovic
Unbeaten Nicaraguan Espinosa is no stranger to the PFL. He has fought for the promotion twice before, winning both fights against Corey Jackson and Hopeton Stewart in 2022 and 2021. An impressive victory on Friday will make Espinosa a heavy favorite to receive a PFL contract and entry into this year’s lightweight competition. He is a fighter comfortable in all areas, though his finishes have historically come early in his fights.
Ferhatbegovic will not be an easy out. The Bosnian fighter’s only two defeats have come against Luis Pena and Jonathan Pearce, fighters who eventually found their way to the UFC. He is a standup artist in his own right, having most recently landed an uppercut on BJ Bland at last year’s PFL Challenger Series, which he finished with ensuing ground and pound. The similar styles between both opponents, combined with their history in the promotion make Espinoza vs. Ferhatbegovic a worthy main event selection.
Sousa vs. Laia
Unbeaten Manoel Sousa will look to punch his ticket to the PFL against fellow countryman Paulo Henrique. Henrique is riding a two-fight winning streak and has competed primarily for SFT, a Brazilian promotion that has partnered with PFL. Both of those wins came in a one-night tournament, putting “Laia” firmly on the radar of PFL brass. He won the last leg of the tournament in 17 seconds, crushing his opponent, Magnus Conrado, with a hard slam and follow-up on the ground.
Henrique should have his hands full with the 9-0 Sousa. The Brazilian has finished all nine of his wins, six of which have come by way of knockout, most recently winning at CFFC 109. He has also never seen a third round, so despite Henrique getting a quick finish in his most recent fight, his best path to victory will likely be to push Sousa into deep waters, a tried and true counter for quick finishers like “Manumito.”
Caruso vs. Romero
An intriguing fight between Australia’s Tony Caruso and Canada’s Anthony Romero will be second on tap. Both fighters will enter the cage with just one loss to their name, and Romero is notable for having won on an episode of Dana White’s Contender Series back in 2020. The Canadian did not receive a contract despite the company having a dearth of potential Canadian stars at the time, and he has since gone 3-1 on the American regional circuit with stops in LFA and Fury FC, where he most recently picked up a win at Fury FC 60.
Caruso, meanwhile has fought on some big stages himself for ONE Championship. He went 1-1 during his brief stint with ONE, and now the Hard Knocks 365 fighter will bring his talents stateside as he looks to earn a contract with PFL. A victory over a tested regional competitor like Romero will certainly go a long way.
Decca vs. Aguayo
Kicking off Friday’s card will be Americans Charlie Decca and Jose Aguayo, the two most inexperienced fighters on the show. Decca’s MMA record stands at just 3-2-1, though his last fight at iKON FC 6 ended in disqualification due to an illegal knee against Shimon Smotritsky at iKON FC 6. A victory could have swung his record to 4-1-1. Now, he will look to avoid falling to .500 against Aguayo, a member of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and resident of Stockton, California.
Aguayo has won each of his last three MMA fights dating back to 2019, and most recently tried his hand at professional boxing. While the general inactivity may be a concern, he picked up a first-round finish in his return to the cage at North Iowa Fights and should be all systems go when he makes his PFL Challenger Series debut.
PFL Challenger Series 2023: Week 4 Results
Elvin Espinoza def. Damir Ferhatbegovic via Submission (RNC) at 1:53 of Round 2*
Manoel Sousa def. Paulo Laia via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Anthony Romero def. Antonio Caruso via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Charlie Decca def. Jose Aguayo via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
* – Elvin Espinoza wins a PFL contract