PFL World Championship predictions, expert picks, top fighters to watch entering 2023 Finals

A year of giving blood, sweat, and tears will culminate with the PFL World Championship Finals on November 24. Six championship fights take place at The Anthem in Washington, D.C., with titles and $1 million on the line. The event will air on ESPN+ PPV in the U.S.

Fighters take part in up to four contests to determine the top competitor in each division. Often, there are upsets or incredible knockout and submission wins. Since 2018, the PFL has entertained fans worldwide with its competitive format.

Per CEO Peter Murray, it is all part of a plan for something bigger. 

“Our vision is to enhance the sport and continue to expand globally as a league,” Murray told The Sun. “We have a vision to create The Champions League of MMA, and now we have five years under our belt as an organization and we’re No. 2 in the world.”

The 2023 PFL World Championship Finals will see the returns of former champions Larissa Pacheco, Olivier Aubin-Mercier, and Sadibou Sy. It will also see newcomers in Clay Collard, Impa Kasanganay, and Jesus Pinedo.

Who will walk out with $1 million as the PFL looks to close its latest season with a bang? 

WATCH: PFL World Championship Finals, exclusively on ESPN+

The Sporting News breaks down every championship fight on the PFL 10 card.

PFL World Championship Finals 2023 predictions, best bets

Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Clay Collard; Lightweights 

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Olivier Aubin-Mercier is the -265 favorite, while Clay Collard is the +215 underdog. 

Aubin-Mercier returns to the finals to face boxer and MMA fighter Collard. In his last fight against Bruno Miranda, Aubin-Mercier landed 98 of 127 strikes, with 78 landing on the ground. He missed one takedown and had over four minutes of ground control time. Aubin-Mercier landed 47 strikes against Anthony Romero and 63 against Shane Burgos. In the latter fight, he had a minute of control on the ground. 

In a Fight of the Year candidate against Burgos, Collard landed 194 of 438 strikes, with 178 pure punches. Against Stevie Ray, Collard landed 71 of 90 shots and had a ground control time of over two minutes. Facing Yamato Nishikawa, Collard landed 156 of 341 strikes and mixed it up by landing several leg kicks. 

This is a clash of styles, with OAM being a hard-hitting wrestler and Collard the volume striker. Collard has stated that “The Canadian Gangster” telegraphs his shots, as seen in his last fight against Miranda.

While a dominant star, OAM will have retirement on the back of his mind. Will that play a factor in this fight? Given Collard’s rise from the Top Rank Bubble to winning $1 million, momentum may be on his side.

The Sporting News will go against the odds here to support the striker with the Cinderella Story. It could be a back-and-forth affair. A TKO win for Collard is likely, but Aubin-Mercier could use his countering ability and that might lead to a distance fight.

Sporting News prediction: Collard via unanimous decision (bonus pick: Collard via TKO (round one) 

MORE: Ranked: The 25 best MMA fighters under the age of 25

Renan Ferreira vs. Denis Goltsov; Heavyweights 

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Denis Goltsov is the -238 favorite, while Renan Ferreira is the +195 underdog. 

Looking at his last three fights, Ferreira landed 33 of 48 strikes against Maurice Greene, with one knockdown. Against Matheus Scheffel, he only needed to land ten strikes to take him down. Opening the season against Rizvan KUniev, the Brazilian landed 39 of 63 strikes and had over seven minutes of ground control time. His highest punch speed during that stretch was 24.7 MPH. It is safe to say his strikes hurt. 

The first PFL fighter to secure an Ezekiel Choke, Goltsov was mainly out of previous finals events due to visa issues. The Russian has won two fights via knockout and one via submission this year. In his last fight against Jordan Heiderman, he had over two minutes of ground control time, landing 36 strikes. His other two contests, like Ferreira’s, did not make it out of the first round.

At heavyweight, anything can happen, and this could either be a slugfest or a slow hoss battle. The Sporting News predicts this to fall under the former. Goltsov, as the favorite, appears to be for good reason. He can drag you down and knock you out at any point.

Sporting News prediction: Goltsov via KO (round one)

Larissa Pacheco vs. Marina Mokhnatkina; Featherweights

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Larissa Pacheco is the -675 favorite, while Marina Mokhnatkina is the +490 underdog. 

Finally beating Kayla Harrison last year at the lightweight level, Pacheco has been an unstoppable force at featherweight. She handled former Bellator champion Julia Budd by landing 71 strikes and having over six minutes of control time on the ground. That was possibly her biggest test this season, as the Brazilian knocked out Amber Leibrock and Olena Kolesnyk, with neither fight going past the first-minute mark.

MORE: Breaking down the purse and salary history of PFL fighters

A ten-time Sambo gold medalist, Mokhnatkina had a tougher journey to the finals. The Russian beat Yoko Higashi via TKO, went the distance against Evelyn Martins (who missed weight), and submitted Leibrock. 

There appears to be no downside to betting on Pacheco. Mokhnatkina presents a challenge, but if Pacheco can spice it up and take her down, her strikes on the floor may be too much for her opponent to handle. Expect fireworks, mainly due to Pacheco’s aggressive style. 

Sporting News prediction: Pacheco via TKO (round one) 

Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. Sadibou Sy; Welterweights 

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook , Magomed Magomedkerimov is the -155 favorite, while Sadibou Sy is the +130 underdog. 

The fight is a rematch from PFL 7 in 2021, where Magomedkerimov beat Sy via unanimous decision. Since then, Magomedkerimov has gone 5-1, while Sy has gone 7-0, beating Rory MacDonald and knocking out Shane Mitchell with a highlight-reel spinning wheel kick. 

Magomedkerimov hits for power and also has a strong ground game. Against Solomon Renfro, he landed 76 strikes, with 27 of them on the ground after three takedowns. After knocking down David Zawada, it only took 24 strikes to take his opponent out. 

Last year’s winner and a kickboxing specialist, Sy landed 58 of 91 strikes against Carlos Leal in a fight that went the distance. Against Shane Mitchell, Sy landed 98 strikes, with one definitive blow ending the contest. He was very cautious against Leal in his last fight, which he may need to be against Magomedkerimov.

Will history repeat itself at PFL 10? Sy has proven to adapt well against strikers and ground-based fighters. If he can keep his distance, Sy can avoid Magomedkerimov’s power. It may be a game of cat and mouse, however, expect both to land damaging strikes. This time, Sy comes out on top. 

Sporting News prediction: Sy via split decision

Josh Silveira vs. Impa Kasanganay; Light Heavyweights 

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Impa Kasanganay is the -162 favorite, while Jos Silveira is the +136 underdog. Both fighters are Challenger Series alums, and it is a battle between American Top Team and Kill Cliff. 

Former fighter and current commentator Dan Hardy told MMA News Kasanganay is Mike Tyson-like when it comes to “how he bumps himself around his opponent,” claiming he can knock out anyone. Kasanganay proved that when knocking out Marthin Hamlet in his last fight. Kasanganay can also attack on the ground, landing two takedowns against Tim Caron, with 29 ground strikes, and having the control time edge on the floor. 

MORE: SN Exclusive: Impa Kasanganay ready to leave his mark with the PFL

Josh Silveira has won three fights this year via some form of finish. Against Ty Flores, he landed 42 strikes en route to a TKO win and only needed to land five strikes against Delan Monte. One takedown was all it needed to submit Sam Kei. 

The contest has the potential to be a Fight of the Night contender. Expect an efficient takedown defense game by both. On the feet, Kasanganay can move back and hit from short or long range. Silveira will need to push forward to outstrike Kasanganay. It could end in the blink of an eye. If he can strike first, Kasanganay could be the one with his hand raised by the end of the night. 

Sporting News prediction: Kasanganay via TKO (round two)

Jesus Pinedo vs. Gabriel Braga; Featherweights

Per the DraftKings Sportsbook, Gabriel Braga is the -125 favorite, while Jesus Pinedo is the +105 underdog. 

This is a rematch from the beginning of the season when Braga beat Pinedo via split decision. Braga landed 74 of 175 strikes in that fight, while Pinedo landed 41 of 181. Braga also decimated Pinedo’s legs with 30 kicks. Since then, Pinedo has come back to beat 2022 winner Brendan Loughnane and knocked out favorite Bubba Jenkins in his previous fight. 

Against Marlon Moraes, Braga landed 12 strikes against the former UFC fighter, knocking him down and out. He landed 84 strikes against Chris Wade, with 40 leg shots and two ground strikes, which earned him a decision win.

MORE: What Saudi Arabia $100 million PFL investment means for future of MMA

Braga may have an edge and Pinedo’s number, but the latter is in terrific form. Pinedo lands crisp shots and can easily dismantle an opponent if needed. The fight could go the distance again, but this time with Pinedo emerging the victor. Braga can end his opponent’s magic run, but it doesn’t appear Pinedo’s time is up. 

Sporting News prediction: Pinedo via unanimous decision 

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