PFL Playoffs: Rory MacDonald The Favorite To Win Welterweight Gold


Perhaps the biggest matchup in Professional Fighters League welterweight history will be kicking off the 2021 PFL Playoffs, with 2019 PFL Welterweight Champion Ray Cooper III facing former UFC star and Bellator World Champion Rory MacDonald in the opening round.

MacDonald (21-8) capped off a solid debut season in the PFL with a second-seeded finish heading into the postseason. He submitted Curtis Millender in the first round at PFL 2, but absorbed a stunning split decision loss to veteran Gleison Tibau at PFL 5. Fortunately for MacDonald, he scored enough points to secure the second-seed in the playoffs. A former title contender in the UFC and a former world champion in Bellator, MacDonald now tries to become a world champion in the PFL as well.

Looking for a second run as world champion meanwhile, will be Cooper III (22-7) who finished the season as the third seed. Cooper III was also impressive in his season debut, submitting Jason Ponet in just a round at PFL 2. He followed that up with a unanimous decision win over Nikolay Aleksakhin at PFL 5, but could not earn points after missing weight. The Hawaii-native, who has reached the finals in his past two PFL campaigns, tries for a third trip to the season finale, and a second straight reign as the league’s 170-pound king.

Another former champion looking to get back to the top of the mountain is fourth-seeded Magomed Magomedkerimov (28-5) of Russia, who captured the 170-pound strap back in 2018. Magomedkerimov tore through the field in 2018, which included a submission win over Cooper III in the finals to clinch the title. In 2019, he appeared to be on track to do the same, but found himself unable to push through in the postseason, opening the door for Cooper III to take the title for himself. This year, Magomedkerimov needed just 1:57 to choke out Curtis Millender at PFL 5, and book a return trip to the playoffs for the third straight year.

With top-seed Joao Zeferino unable to compete in the playoffs, 5th-seed Sadibou Sy (9-5-2) earns a spot in the postseason and a chance to fight for the welterweight championship and the million-dollar grand prize. Sy’s season debut at PFL 2 against Nikolay Aleksakhin ended in a No Contest following an eye poke. The Swede-native bounced back at PFL 5 with a unanimous decision win over Alexey Kunchenko. This will be Sy’s second-straight PFL Playoffs appearance.

#2-seed Rory MacDonald meets #3-seed Ray Cooper III in the opening round, while #4-seed Magomed Magomedkerimov takes on #5-seed Sadibou Sy.

The welterweights will kick off the postseason at PFL 7 on Friday, August 13th at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Don’t miss the action live on ESPN channels and via streaming on ESPN+.

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