PFL vs. Bellator Co-Main Event Breakdown

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It’s the fight card fans of MMA have been waiting since Thanksgiving for. Back in November, the Professional Fighters League bought Bellator MMA from Paramount Global, with the parent company of CBS retaining a minority ownership in the combat sports organization.

One of the key takeaways of the deal is the fact that a PFL vs. Bellator super show would take place, pitting champions from the two promotions against one another. On Saturday afternoon inside North America, it’ll be showtime when PFL vs. Bellator goes down in Saudi Arabia.

The run-up to this landmark card hasn’t come without its problems, however, with a planned fight between Jesus Pinedo (23-6-1 MMA, 3-1 PFL) and Patricio Pitbull (35-7 MMA, 23-6 Bellator) getting scrubbed due to Pinedo withdrawing amid a back injury.

Live coverage begins Saturday at noon ET/ 9 am PT on ESPN+ with the undercard, followed at 3 pm ET/ noon PT with the main card. This main card is available over pay-per-view on ESPN+ and DAZN inside the United States for a $50 price tag.

Middleweights Do Battle in PFL vs. Bellator Co-Main Event

All told, barring any further setbacks, the final version of PFL vs. Bellator over the weekend is set to feature a full 12-fight card. Your co-headliner takes place at 185 lbs.

2023 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Impa Kasanganay (15-3 MMA, 5-0 PFL)Β  moves back to 185 when he faces off against current Bellator MMA Middleweight Champion Johnny Eblen (14-0 MMA, 10-0 Bellator) in the PFL vs. Bellator co-main event. It’ll be an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round ahead of the heavyweight main event between Renan Ferreira (12-3, 3 NC MMA, 6-1, 3 NC PFL) and Ryan Bader (31-7, 1 NC MMA, 9-2, 1 NC Bellator).

Your winner of this middleweightΒ  confrontation receives the PFL-Bellator Unification Belt.

PFL vs. Bellator Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the co-main event of the evening on Saturday, Johnny Eblen is the taller man at 6-foot-1, compared to the 5-foot-11 frame of Impa Kasanganay. The PFL champ owns a one-inch reach advantage (75 inches to 74 inches) over his Bellator counterpart.

Currently, oddsmakers have Johnny Eblen installed as a -500 favorite on the money line with Impa Kasanganay countering as a +380 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Impa Kasanganay Battled Homelessness in the Past

Impa Kasanganay enters the PFL vs. Bellator main event on Saturday having posted an undefeated record across his last five fights as part of a six-fight winning streak. Back on Black Friday, he scored a unanimous decision win over Josh Silveira (12-2 MMA, 5-2 PFL) after five rounds to take the PFL Light Heavyweight Championship.

It wasn’t always rosy for the champ, however. Upon claiming his title last fall, he appeared onΒ The MMA Hour with Ariel HelwaniΒ to open up about a period where he was homeless.

“I think I was just pretty lost, man,” Kasanganay recalled. “I left the gym I started out in, I was kind of confused, like ‘Did I make the right decision to move to Florida?’ Should I have stayed there?’ All the training partners I had, some of them I talked to, some of them I didn’t, some I was really tight with, some of them I never heard from again, and I connect a lot with people that I love. So when I got to that car, it was the only place where I could sit down and be peaceful in that front seat.”

This is a guy who was gearing up for a fight on the Challenger Series at this time a year ago. 12 months later, he’s got a title and now he’s looking to win another one on Saturday.

Johnny Eblen Credits MMA For a Better Life

In the other corner, Johnny Eblen has yet to lose thus far in his MMA career. Factoring in amateur bouts, he’s won 17 contests in a row.

Last September, he stopped Fabian Edwards (12-3 MMA, 8-3 Bellator) with a third-round knockout during Bellator 299. Much like Impa Kasanganay, Eblen’s past wasn’t too rosy, something that he explained to USA Today’s MMAJunkie recently.

“I wasn’t focused on the right things,” Eblen mentioned. I was looking for short-term pleasures and it was a bad time in my life. It could’ve gone south. I could’ve not found fighting. I could be miserable right now, bro. I could be dead or in jail or just a miserable human. I’m so thankful that I met Mike Brown, that I met “King Mo“. I met Naudi Aguilar through Functional Patterns and that really changed my life a lot.

Since turning to the fight game, Johnny Eblen has thrived. Will he thrive again in the PFL vs. Bellator main event?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

The PFL vs. Bellator co-main event looks to be another one of those toss-ups. A slight edge can be given to Johnny Eblen due to his wrestling background.

Look For Kasanganay to Use His Fists

Throughout his MMA career, Impa Kasanganay has been known to be an aggressive fighter. His Challenger Series fight vs. Osama El Saidy was a textbook example.

During the first round of a scheduled three, Kasanganay scored with a two-punch combination to drop El Saidy. Upon El Saidy backing away, the two stalked one another before the fight went to the mat and Kasanganay took El Saidy’s back.

From there, he landed some ground and pound. Although El Saidy stood up, he wouldn’t be upright for long, with Kasanganay uncorking another combination to knock him out.

As long as Kasanganay throws the crisper punches, he’ll go back to the United States a winner.

Eblen Can Also Bring the Fireworks

In the other corner, Johnny Eblen is an aggressive fighter in his own right. Danny Madrid knows this firsthand.

Round one of their 2021 fight saw Eblen go for the calf kick early on, mixing in a side kick. While Madrid threw feints, Eblen was the better fighter, knocking him down to the mat with a single punch, ending the show with ground and pound in under three minutes.

If Johnny Eblen lands the first shot, he’ll emerge victorious.

Final Thoughts

Nothing more needs to be said other than make that sandwich before the PFL vs. Bellator co-main event starts.

Prediction: Impa Kasanganay by First-Round Knockout.Β 

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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