2024 PFL 1 Main Event Breakdown

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On the Thursday night before both Division I Final Fours in college basketball, fans of roundball have their sites set on Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for the 2024 NIT Championship Game. As of this writing, the finalists for that event have yet to be determined, with both semifinals happening on Tuesday evening.

While a champion is crowned on the court in Indiana on Thursday, the road to the championships in MMA begin the same evening. As the old adage goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” including heavyweight fights. This week, the 2024 PFL regular season begins in San Antonio.

PFL 1 emanates from the Boeing Center on Thursday night, an evening where heavyweights and women’s flyweights take center stage. For the fifth consecutive season, the entirety of the PFL season is aired and streamed on ESPN‘s properties, with the undercard starting at 6:30 pm ET/ 3:30 pm PT on ESPN+.

Thursday’s main card follows at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT on ESPN2, with ESPN+ streaming the event throughout. Absent any new cancellations, the final version of PFL 1 will feature 12 total bouts.

Delija Meets Moldavsky in 2024 PFL 1 Main Event

Immediately after the co-main event of the evening, the headliner stays at 265 lbs. when Ante Delija (24-5 MMA, 0-0 2024 PFL, zero points in the standings) goes to battle against Valentin Moldavsky (12-3, 1 NC MMA, 0-0 2024 PFL, zero points in the standings), who crossed over to the PFL after the promotion acquired Bellator MMA last November. As with all regular season and semifinal fights in the promotion, the PFL 1 main event is an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close out the season’s opening night.

2024 PFL 1 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the PFL 1 main event on Thursday night, Ante Delija stands as the taller contestant at 6-foot-5, compared to Valentin Moldavsky’s 6-foot-1 frame. Delija owns a four-inch reach advantage (79 inches to 75 inches) over Moldavsky, with the former also having a 41-inch leg reach. No leg reach information was accessible for the latter at press time.

At the moment, the oddsmakers have this one listed as a pick-’em on the money line, with both men listed as -112 favorites. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Ante Delija Looks to Run Winning Streak to Six

Ante Delija, who won the 2022 PFL Heavyweight Championship, has posted an undefeated 5-0 record over his last five bouts. Most recently, he scored a unanimous decision win over Maurice Greene (11-9 MMA) after three rounds during last season’s PFL 5.

While he did accumulate three points in the standings for the win on the scorecards, he finished outside of a playoff berth. Earlier in the season last year, Delija had been booked to fight Yorgan de Castro in PFL 2, but the fight was postponed ahead of the card amid sustaining a meniscus injury.

After picking up his lone win of the season last year, he sustained a second injury to the very same meniscus. Now with Delija having a clean bill of health, will he keep his winning streak up?

Perhaps a more salient question is this one: Can Ante Delija use the PFL 1 main event as the start of a springboard toward regaining championship glory? Tune in on Thursday night and find out.

Moldavsky Looking to Remain in Win Column After PFL Debut

Like a number of Bellator fighters, Valentin Moldavsky finds himself on the PFL’s active roster after last November’s sale. He enters the PFL 1 main event having gone 2-2 with one no-contest over his last five fights.

Last time out, he bested Steve Mowry (10-1-1, 1 NC MMA) by unanimous decision in August during Bellator 298. Mowry will fight on Thursday night’s card himself when he takes on Oleg Popov during the ESPN+ prelims. With the PFL having a two-fight regular season, a win in the PFL 1 main event later on this week is paramount for Valentin Moldavsky, especially given his tough opposition.

Will he pick up a noteworthy victory over a former champ?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the PFL 1 main event looks to favor Valentin Moldavsky, a Combat Sambo fighter, with Ante Delija countering as a judo practitioner.

Moldavsky Can Control the Pace

Valentin Moldavsky isn’t known as a knockout specialist, but he can still control the fight if he takes an adversary down to the mat, like he did vs. Carl Seumanutafa during the former’s Bellator debut. 

Right after the command to start was given, Moldavsky dumped Seumanutafa and seized the momentum in the first round, softening him up with ground and pound shots. Although Seumanutafa got back up to his feet briefly, Moldavsky dumped him again, remaining in top position for the rest of the round.

If Moldavsky dumps Ante Delija just once, all the chips will be on his side of the poker table in the PFL 1 main event.

Watch for Delija’s Crisp Punches

In the other corner, Ante Delija’s fight history brings to mind a constant of heavyweight fights: One punch can end the night. Just look at the tape of his first match vs. Matheus Scheffel.

That night, round two started with Delija smelling blood in the water after knocking Scheffel down near the end of the previous period. He wouldn’t have to wait too long to lock up the win, connecting on a right hand to put Scheffel down and out in less than a minute.

Ante Delija’s got one-punch power. If it happens to be on display in the PFL 1 main event, this one will be over in a flash.

Final Thoughts

The calendar will read April 4 on Thursday, but the PFL 1 main event could deliver fireworks similar to those launched on July 4. If you don’t have plans for Thursday night, you do now.

Prediction: Ante Delija by First-Round Knockout. 

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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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