2024 PFL 1 Co-Main Event Breakdown

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2024’s second quarter begins with opening night of MMA‘s season. Thursday night, the month of April in competitive violence kicks off in San Antonio when the Boeing Center plays host to this year’s first card from the Professional Fighters League in its first season since the merger with Bellator MMA was completed last November.

PFL 1 sees the regular season proper begin with the first opportunities for fighters at heavyweight and women’s flyweight to accumulate points in the standings in the hopes of competing in the playoffs later this summer. The 2024 season marks the first time that a women’s flyweight tournament will be held in the league. All roads lead to PFL 10, where each division’s championship will be awarded later this fall.

As is customary. live coverage of PFL 1 will be seen from start to finish on ESPN+, beginning with the prelims at 6:30 pm ET/ 3:30 pm PT, with ESPN2 airing the main card at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT. Heavyweight fights top the bill on Thursday, including an entertaining tilt in the PFL 1 co-main event.

Goltsov Clashes with Vassell in 2024 PFL 1 Co-Main Event

2023 PFL heavyweight runner-up Denis Goltsov (32-8 MMA, 0-0 2024 PFL, zero points in the standings) tries to start his road to redemption when he takes on Bellator crossover Linton Vassell (24-8, 1 NC MMA, 0-0 2024 PFL, zero points in the standings) in Thursday’s co-headliner. Like all fights up to the semifinal round in postseason play, this one is an advertised three rounds at five minutes per round.

2024 PFL 1 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the PFL 1 co-main event on Thursday night, Denis Goltsov stands as the taller man at 6-foot-5, compared to the 6-foot-4 frame of Linton Vassell. The latter owns a 2 1/2-inch reach advantage (80 1/2 inches to 78 inches even) over the former. In addition, Goltsov has a 43-inch leg reach, with no such information accessible for Vassell at press time,

Currently, the oddsmakers have Denis Goltsov installed as a -180 favorite on the money line, with Linton Vassell countering as a +140 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Can Goltsov Return to Win Column?

Denis Goltsov enters the new season having posted a record of 4-1 in his last five fights. Most recently, he saw his five-fight winning streak dating back to April of 2022 snapped at the hands of last season’s champion Renan Ferreira (13-3, 3 NC MMA) on Nov. 24 in Washington, DC by way of second-round knockout.

Goltsov is a man who said that it wasn’t about the $1 million (USD) cash prize that came along with the title last season.

“Of course, for me, becoming a world champion [in the] PFL means a lot more than the money,” Goltsov mentioned at the time, through his translator. “Money, today you have it, tomorrow you spend it. You’re not going to have it, but the legacy is going to stay with my last name, it’s going to stay with my kids. It’s going to give me big opportunities in the future.”

For Goltsov, the future is now. He’s had a chance to pop the cork but he hasn’t taken a sip of the celebratory wine that comes with a title victory.

Now that he’s had a title opportunity, the goal in 2024 is to get back to the championship card this fall and win it, but he’s got to take it one fight at a time. It starts with the PFL 1 co-main event.

Linton Vassell Readies for First Fight in More Than a Year

In the other corner, Linton Vassell has gone 5-0 in his last five fights dating back to November of 2019. More than a year ago, he scored a first-round knockout (elbows from mount) against Valentin Moldavsky (12-3, 1 NC MMA, 7-2, 1 NC Bellator) during Bellator 292 on March 10, 2023.

Afterward, Vassell was supposed to have fought Ryan Bader in Bellator 300Β  last October but the bout was scratched due to the former withdrawing amid COVID-19.

In a recent interview on theΒ Last CallΒ podcast, he talked about his experiences with the coronavirus.

“It wiped me out,” Vassell began. “I was in bed for a week, and once I felt better, I thought ‘Let me try and see how I’d feel just for peace of mind if I did fight.’ I did like, two minutes and I was blowing out my ass. I felt like I’d done 10 rounds. Again, I did the right thing. It really did hurt me, though because, obviously, the money, the status, become world champion, all that.”

With a clean bill of health and a new promotional banner, Vassell returns to the cage for the first time in 55 weeks on Thursday in the PFL 1 co-main event. Can he score a win and possibly six points in the standings?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the PFL 1 co-main event looks to favor Linton Vassell, a wrestler, compared to Denis Goltsov, a Combat Sambo fighter.

Goltsov Can Make Quick Work of Anyone

Denis Goltsov is known to be vicious with his fists. One need look no further than his fight against Yorgan de Castro last year during the regular season.

That night, Goltsov got to work right away, landing a crisp punch to knock de Castro down and out in just 18 seconds to lock up a win and the top seed in last year’s heavyweight semifinals. If he can land a crisp punch, he’ll find himself back in the win column after the PFL 1 co-main event.

Look for Vassell to Take Goltsov to the Mat

In the other corner, Linton Vassell has an impressive ground game. Once he gets someone down to the canvas, it’s his world and you’re just living in it.

Although he’s shown to have amazing ground and pound, Vassell’s submission skills are equally sharp, as illustrated during his fight against Nick Chapman. During the second round, he executed a brilliant double-leg takedown and softened a now-gassed Chapman up with punches to the head, giving him the opening to quickly lock up a rear-naked choke in under a minute.

All Linton Vassell has to do to win in his PFL debut is take Denis Goltsov down once. If he takes Goltsov to the mat, the PFL 1 co-main event may be over as soon as it starts.

Final Thoughts

This is a cracking bout to co-headline the PFL’s opening night. One final word of advice before we bid you adieu for now: Don’t look away from the screen in this one or in the main event of the evening. You might miss the ending.

Prediction: Denis Goltsov by First-Round TKO.

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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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