PFL 2021 #5: MacDonald vs Tibau preview, weigh-in results

Rory took a major gamble on himself, but can he come out on top in the end? | Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Welterweights and light heavyweights attempt to clinch their spot in the PFL playoffs.

PFL starts to heat up as the light heavyweight and welterweight divisions aim to rack up their scores in hopes of making it to the playoffs and securing a spot for the million dollar jackpot.

The real meat on this bone is at welterweight. 205 has some interesting matchups and talents, sure. It’s just not as compelling nor is there the same potential for action. Stylistically, some of these pairings don’t appear to be as thrilling as they could be despite the field of competitors. In a best case scenario, I’m wrong again and it actually delivers big.

So let’s hope I’m wrong on that.

Main event honors go to former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald (22-6, 1 draw) finally made his PFL debut in late April and notched a submission win over Curtis Millender with a rear naked choke. Now he meets Gleison Tibau (34-15), who has fought a baffling assortment of fighters before bumping up to welterweight and lost a decision in his initial PFL outing against João Zeferino. Rory’s still got his strong wrestling, heavy top pressure, sniper jab and offense from everywhere. Tibau is still capable of mugging in the clinch, working counters, sneaking in takedowns and finding ways to stay ahead on the scorecards. He’s not the Tibau of a decade ago, a damn-near unfinishable machine. He can be cracked or submitted in these older years, but can make things messy and difficult enough for anybody.

Prior to that, we have two of the hottest — if not the hottest — welterweight acquisitions PFL has made. Ray Cooper III (21-7, 1 draw) is back in action after his submission win over France’s Jason Ponet in April. Cooper continues to be a major offensive threat and a treat to watch in his fights. He faces what may be his biggest threat yet in Nikolay Aleksakhin (26-5). A veteran of S-70, ProFC, ONE Championship, RCC and Fight Nights Global, he’s left a trail of victims behind, and is a menace that could make it all the way to the finals. Both are heavy hitters than can nail takedowns and work submissions, it’ll be a matter of who makes the least mistakes and who can be more successful at using speed and movement. Cooper unfortunately missed weight, leading to not only forfeiting 30% of his purse to Nikolay. but was docked a point in the standings, leaving him with five points for the season.

He’ll need something big to work off that deficit.

Former champ Emiliano Sordi (23-8) hit it big last year when he took it all, and tries to stay unbeaten in 2021 against Dan Spohn (18-8). Sordi took a decision win over Chris Camozzi, while Spohn is behind the 8-ball after a submission loss to Marthin Nielsen.

Speaking of Camozzi (25-15), he’s back in action against another UFC vet in Cezar “Mutante“ Ferreira (14-8). Ferreira blew the doors off of Nick Roehrick in his last bout, netting him six points in the standings.

Brazil vs Brazil action will also be on the card when submisson ace Vinny Magalhaes (19-12) meets “Shoeface“ Antonio Carlos Jr (11-5). Shoeface nailed a major guillotine choke on Tom Lawlor to set the pace for 2021, and Vinny will look to make a major statement if he wants to get into the playoffs as he has no points at all. Magalhaes’ scheduled bout in April saw him withdraw due to medical concerns stemming from his weight cut, so he’s starting fresh.

Russian buzzsaw Magomed Magomedkerimov (27-5) will face Curtis Millender (18-7), who is in a do-or-die situation having lost to MacDonald earlier in the year. Magomedkerimov won his previous bout by decision, and will need a big win to progress to the playoffs.

You can check out the ceremonial weigh-ins here:

Full card is as follows:

Rory MacDonald (171) vs. Gleison Tibau (170.6) – Welterweight

Ray Cooper III (171.8)** vs. Nikolay Aleksakhin (169) – Welterweight

Emiliano Sordi (205) vs. Dan Spohn (205.6) – Light heavyweight

Cezar Ferreira (205.4) vs. Chris Camozzi (204.6) – Light heavyweight

Antonio Carlos Junior (205) vs. Vinny Magalhaes (204) – Light heavyweight

Marthin Hamlet (205.6) vs. Cory Hendricks (205.6) – Light heavyweight

Joao Zeferino (171) vs. Jason Ponet (169.4) – Welterweight

Magomed Magomedkerimov (171) vs. Curtis Millender (170.6) – Welterweight

Tom Lawlor (203.6) vs. Jordan Young (206) – Light heavyweight

Sadibou Sy (170) vs. Alexey Kunchenko (169.5) – Welterweight

**Cooper missed weight, loses a point for the season and surrenders 30% of purse to Aleksakhin

PFL 2021 #5 starts this Thursday at 5:30pm EST on ESPN+, and the main card will be simulcast on ESPN+ and ESPN2 starting at 9:00pm.

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