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PFL vs. Bellator predictions, full fight previews | ‘Seize the Throne’

Professional Fighters League (PFL) and Bellator MMA are set to usher in a new era in mixed martial arts (MMA) this Saturday (Feb. 24, 2024) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as the two promotions go head-to-head in a historic event.

Headlining the “Champion vs. Champion” event will be PFL’s Heavyweight champion, Renan Ferreira, taking on Bellator 265-pound kingpin, Ryan Bader, Co-headlining the event will be a Middleweight title fight as Impa Kasanganay will drop down to 185 pounds to battle Bellator’s champion, Johnny Eblen.

The winners of those two title fights will walk away with this amazing custom-made belt.

But the main card action does not stop there because Bruno Cappelozza will welcome former Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov, to the Heavyweight division. Also, Bellator Featherweight champion, Patricio Pitbull, will face off against 2023 PFL Featherweight finalist, Gabriel Braga. Plus, Thiago Santos will face off against Yoel Romero, while Clay Collard and A.J. McKee will throw down in a 155-pound bout.


Renan Ferreira vs. Ryan Bader

Let’s get straight to the meat and potatoes of it: Renan Ferreria is huge! That was evident when he came face-to-face against Bader during the press conference to promote their title fight. “Problema” stands at 6’8’’ while “Darth” comes in at 6’2” and is a natural Light Heavyweight. Still, Bader is no stranger to fighting bigger men, as he has gone toe-to-toe against Cheick Kongo and Valentin Moldavsky. But Ferreira still has size on both of those men, and his knockout power is leaps and bounds ahead of them, as well. Of his 12 wins, Ferreira has obtained 10 of them by knockout, seven of them in the very first round. While “Darth” is no slouch on the feet, he will undoubtedly look to rely on his wrestling to get the job done. Bader’s background in the discipline will give him a leg up on his foe once the fight hits the ground, but keeping him there will be another battle given the size difference. Denis Goltsov did have some success against Renan in the finals once he took him down, so Bader knows what he has to do if he wants to come out on top. If he stays true to his game, then Bader can pull it off, but if he goes toe-to-toe it will prove disastrous for him. It doesn’t take much for Ferreira to put his opposition to sleep, and I see one of his haymakers finding its spot.

Final prediction: Ferreira via second round knockout

Bellator 299

Impa Kasanganay vs. Johnny Eblen

Impa Kasanganay will put his first-ever Light Heavyweight title defense on hold for the time being as he drops down to Middleweight to face undefeated sensation, Johnny Eblen. Kasanganay has been on a tear since joining PFL, going 5-0 and culminating with him winning the Light Heavyweight title in Nov. 2023. Four of his wins, by the way, have come via stoppage. As for Eblen, he has been nothing short of perfect his entire pro MMA career, amassing a 14-0 record, including going 10-0 inside the Bellator cage. He has defended his Middleweight title twice, most recently knocking out Fabian Edwards at Bellator 299. Here’s the thing, despite Kasanganay fighting at Light Heavyweight, Eblen will not be at a weight or height disadvantage come fight night. Where he will have a glaring advantage, however, will be in the wrestling department. The former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has grappling skills to give anyone trouble, and Kasanganay doesn’t exactly shine there. It won’t be an easy fight by any stretch of the imagination, but if Eblen can dictate the fight on the ground as much as possible, he will edge out a win. But Eblen loves to stand-and-bang, which will give Kasanganay a punchers chance. And we all know how that can turn out.

Final prediction: Eblen via unanimous decision

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series: Jackson v Stewart

Jason Jackson vs. Ray Cooper III

Jackson was supposed to face off against PFL’s Welterweight king, Magomed Magomedkerimov before he was forced out of the event. Stepping in to save the day is Cooper III, who is in desperate need of a win. Indeed, the former PFL champion is just 1-2 in his last three outings and is coming off a unanimous decision loss at the hands of Derek Brunson. As for Jackson, he is on an absolute tear, winning seven straight, which includes his knockout win over previously undefeated champion, Yaroslav Amosov, at Bellator 301, improving his record to 8-1 inside the Bellator cage. Cooper has a tad bit more fighting experience than Jackson, and has underrated wrestling when he decides to use it. But as we have grown accustomed to seeing, Cooper prefers to let his fists do the talking inside the Smart Cage. The area where Jackson has an advantage will be cardio. If Jackson can push the pace and keep the pressure on as he loves to do, it could be a long 15 minutes for the Hawaiian knockout machine.

Final prediction: Jackson via unanimous decision

Bellator 263: Pitbull vs. McKee

Patricio Pitbull vs. Gabriel Braga

Pitbull was in-line to face off against PFL’s Featherweight king, Jesus Pinedo, but a late withdrawal on Pinedo’s part allowed Braga to step away from his scheduled fight against Aaron Pico to fill the void. Pico will remain on the card to face off against Henry Corrales on the undercard. Pitbull finds himself in very unfamiliar territory having lost two straight fights. After failing to win the Bantamweight title off Sergio Pettis, the Brazilian bomber was then knocked out by Chihiro Suzuki a month later after accepting a last-second fight. Braga was the perfect replacement for Pinedo seeing as how he came up short against the 145-pound champion in the finals last year. That loss snapped Braga’s undefeated streak of 12 straight wins. If Pitbull isn’t careful, he could wind up with a third straight defeat. so I expect a more cautious approach from the champion. Braga is very aggressive as evidenced by his five knockout wins, but Pitbull is far from a slouch in the striking department. While many may feel the Bellator champion is on the downside of his combat career, I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see a rejuvenated fighter come fight night.

Final prediction: Pitbull via unanimous decision

2023 PFL 2

Bruno Cappelozza vs. Vadim Nemkov

Nemkov opted to vacate his 205-pound title and forego a possible matchup against Impa Kasanganay at this event in an attempt to make a run at the Heavyweight belt. Nemkov is on a 12-fight unbeaten streak, winning 11 fights to go along with a No Contest (NC) against Corey Anderson. He has a record five title defenses under the Bellator banner, which is why perhaps he felt there was nothing left to prove in the division. As for Cappelozza, the 2021 PFL tournament winner is coming off a No Contest (NC) ruling against Matheus Scheffel. He originally won the fight via TKO but was overturned after he failed a drug test. He will attempt to fight his ship by giving Nemkov a rude welcome to the land of the big men. Nemkov has the grappling advantage here, but Bruno has the edge when it comes to sheer knockout power, winning 14 of his 15 fights via strikes. He has never gone the distance. which bodes well for Nemkov if he can drag the fight into deep waters. At the end of the day, however, Cappelozza will find a good enough opening to clobber the ex-champion with a big shot to give him a stoppage win.

Final prediction: Cappelozza via second round technical knockout


Thiago Santos vs. Yoel Romero

Romero is adamant that his age has nothing to do with his previous woes inside the cage, but as he creeps up on 47 years of life, once can’t help but to wonder just how long “Soldier of God” can fight at this level. He is just 2-5 in his last seven outings so it’s hard to ignore the struggles. Still, the hulking Cuban is adamant we will see an improved fighter come fight night. As for Santos, he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up as of late. either. He is 1-5-1 in his last seven fights dating back to his time with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). After jumping ship to PFL, “Marreta” didn’t make the splash he would’ve hoped, falling to Rob Wilkinson via unanimous decision in his debut. That was overturned, however, to a No Contest (NC) after Wilkinson tested positive for elevated testosterone. Santos in desperate need of a win here, but it’s not like he will get his walking papers with another loss. Both longtime veterans are struggling, but one will get a much-needed win in what will prove to be a hard-fought battle.

Final prediction: Santos via unanimous decision

2023 PFL Championships

Clay Collard vs. A.J. McKee

McKee’s tenure at Lightweight has proven fruitful thus far, winning all three of his fights since moving up in Oct. 2022. He is fresh off a unanimous decision win over Sidney Outlaw at Bellator 301, and now he will look continue his momentum under the re-invented promotion when he battles 2023 tournament finalist, Clay Collard. “Cassius” came up short in his bid to win the Lightweight final, losing to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in Nov. 2024. The loss snapped his three-fight win streak, but he has a chance to bounce back in a big way with a win over McKee. This is an evenly-matched fight because both men excel in all areas of the fight game, which is why picking a winner isn’t an easy task. It will come down to who can capitalize on the opportunities when they present themselves and “Mercenary” will be the one to do it.

Final prediction: McKee via second round submission

For all the latest PFL and Bellator MMA news and notes click here and here.

This story originally appeared on MMA Mania

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