The 2021 Professional Fighters League playoffs begin on Friday with semifinal action in the men’s welterweight and lightweight divisions, and Rory MacDonald and Ray Cooper III among those still vying for the $1 million championship prizes.
MacDonald and Cooper will meet in one of the two welterweight semifinals on tap for Friday night, with two of the biggest names in the PFL fighting for one spot in the finals.
Cooper seeking second PFL title
The No. 2 seed, MacDonald (22-7-1) won the Bellator welterweight championship and once challenged for the UFC title against Robbie Lawler. Cooper (22-7-1), meanwhile, has been the top welterweight in the PFL, winning the 2019 championship and reaching the final in 2018 before losing to Magomed Magomedkerimov.
In other words, the PFL can hardly put on a larger fight than this one.
“Rory is a well-known guy and has fought a lot of known guys,” Cooper said via ESPN.com. “He got the attention because he fought in the biggest organization and he was a champion in another one. I’m looking forward to competing against him.”
While MacDonald holds the bigger reputation, bookmakers see this as something of an even matchup. DraftKings Sportsbook lists MacDonald as a -125 favorite over Cooper (+105) in what should be a battle of styles. The question is whether the aggressive Cooper can find a finish, or if MacDonald’s pressure will get to Cooper over the course of the fight.
“Ray’s got power and aggressiveness on his side,” MacDonald told ESPN.com. “But I feel like my skill level and experience will get me the win.”
The winner will take on either Sadibou Sy (+700) or Magomedkerimov (-1125), who will meet in the other semifinal. Cooper says he’s looking forward to a potential rematch with the heavily favored Magomedkerimov in the PFL final. “I’m gonna get through my opponent and, hopefully, he gets through his opponent,” Cooper said. “Magomed is the match I want in the finals. I want a chance to right that wrong.”
Collard battles Manfio in lightweight playoffs
In the PFL lightweight playoffs, American Clay Collard will take on Raush Manfio in the No. 2 vs. No. 3 seed matchup. Collard got through to the postseason with two decision victories, including a surprise upset win over former UFC champion Anthony Pettis. He’s now a -180 favorite over Manfio (+155) and sees a clear path to a $1 million payday.
|PFL Odds – Welterweight Playoffs (via DraftKings Sportsbook)|
|Rory MacDonald: -125||Ray Cooper III: +105|
|Magomed Magomedkerimov: -1125||Sadibou Sy: +700|
|Clay Collard: -180||Raush Manfio: +155|
|Loik Radzhabov: -210||Alex Martinez: +175|
“We got two fights, we gotta stay focused,” Collard said to MMA Junkie. “We gotta take it a fight at a time. I’ve just been plugging away at this … we can almost smell it. We’re not gonna count our chickens before they hatch, though.”
The winner of the Collard vs. Manfio matchup will take on either top seed Loik Radzhabov (-210) or Alexander Martinez (+175) in the final. All six PFL finals will take place during the last card of the season on Oct. 27.