5 fights that could happen in the PFL in 2021

Anthony Pettis, PFL

There’s a lot to look forward to when the Professional Fighters League (PFL) returns for its third season in April of 2021.

While the PFL takes pride in its unique, seasonal format, its top attraction will always be the fights. To have great fights, you need great fighters, and that’s something that the PFL has in spades.

2020 marked a massive year for the PFL in terms of talent-signing. Not only did the league sign a number of proven veterans and up-and-coming stars, but the it also brought in a number of world champions, namely Fabricio Werdum, Anthony Pettis, and Claressa Shields.

With these new additions, plus the talent-rich roster that the PFL already had, there are a number of amazing fights that could take place once the 2021 season kicks off.

Here are five huge bouts that could happen in the PFL in 2021:

Anthony Pettis vs. Natan Schulte

Anthony Pettis’ move to the PFL opens the door to a number of amazing fights, but the one that most fans would like to see is Pettis vs. reigning PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte.

Pettis is a former WEC and UFC world champion, and will be bringing a wealth of high-level experience into the PFL’s lightweight division. That experience could ultimately propel him to the finals of the 2021 season’s lightweight tournament and set up a possible showdown with the two-time lightweight king.

Schulte himself is a highly-experienced competitor, having over 20 professional mixed martial arts bouts. His biggest advantage over Pettis however, is his experience in the promotion. Schulte is undefeated in the PFL, and has won the lightweight tournament twice. In 2021, he returns to defend his title against a host of hungry 155-pounders, with arguably the most dangerous among them being Pettis.

Claressa Shields’ mixed martial arts debut

Three-division women’s boxing champion Claressa Shields made headlines all over the world back in December of 2020 when she announced that she had signed with the PFL in order to make her mixed martial arts debut.

Shields’ goal is to become the first person to hold world championships in boxing and MMA simultaneously. While Shields will be making her debut in 2021, she won’t be joining the PFL’s million-dollar tournament just yet. Instead, she will be competing in a pair of special attraction bouts to get her prepared for the 2022 PFL season.

Shields has already enlisted the help of some of the best fighters in the world at the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn Academy in New Mexico. There, she trains with the likes of Jon Jones, Holly Holm, and Michelle Waterson.

If her training partners are any indication of how far she can go in MMA, Shields should be a world champion in no time.

Rory MacDonald vs. Ray Cooper III

2020 was supposed to be the year that Rory MacDonald made his highly-anticipated debut in the PFL. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic ended up delaying that. In 2021, MacDonald will finally make his promotional debut, and waiting for him are a host of dangerous 170-pounders.

Perhaps the toughest challenge barring MacDonald from the PFL title and a million-dollar paycheck is reigning welterweight champ Ray Cooper III. After coming up short in the 2018 season, Cooper realized his dream of becoming a world champion in 2019, capturing the title with a second-round TKO of David Michaud.

In 2021, Cooper will start from scratch as he tries to become two-time PFL champion. It won’t be easy however, as he will likely have to go through MacDonald to get there.

Kayla Harrison vs. Larissa Pacheco III 

Reigning PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison has stopped every opponent put in her way, except for one. Brazilian veteran Larissa Pacheco remains the only woman that Harrison has been unable to finish. In their two meetings inside the PFL cage, Pacheco has gone the distance with Harrison, and both bouts have been action-packed.

In 2021, Pacheco could once again be the final hurdle standing between Harrison and a second-consecutive reign as PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion.

Can a third time be the charm for Pacheco as she tries to finally get one over Harrison?

Fabricio Werdum vs. Ali Isaev

Perhaps the biggest signing of the PFL’s off-season was former UFC heavyweight champion and Brazilian legend Fabricio Werdum. Werdum brings to the PFL cage years of experience in the biggest promotions in the world, including Pride FC, Strikeforce, and the UFC.

Because of his experience and accomplishments, it’s hard to argue that Werdum instantly becomes the favorite to win the 2021 PFL heavyweight tournament. Undefeated reigning PFL Heavyweight Champion Ali Isaev might have something to say about that, however.

Isaev is 9-0 in his professional career, and in 2019, he blasted through the heavyweight semifinals and finals, winning both bouts by TKO to become the new PFL heavyweight king.

If things go according to plan for both fighters, Werdum and Isaev could likely face off in the heavyweight finals this year.

The PFL 2021 season kicks off on April 23rd, and can be seen on ESPN2 and on the ESPN+ app. For more PFL content, download the official PFL app!

This article appeared first on BJPENN.COM