This Thursday, PFL presents us with the final match-ups before the play-offs in the welterweight and light-heavyweight divisions. The PFL 5 main card features four bouts, with Rory MacDonald and Gleison Tibau headlining the event. Two former champions will also be competing on the PFL 5 main card, with plenty up for grabs in both divisions.
PFL 5 Main Card Preview
Co-Main Event: Ray Cooper III (21-7-1) vs Nikolai Aleksakhin (26-5)
The co-main event hosts one of the most intriguing match-ups on the PFL 5 main card in the welterweight division. The ruthless Ray Cooper III faces a fellow deadly finisher in Nikolai Aleksakhin. Cooper submitted Jason Ponet after one minute and 23 seconds at PFL 2 to claim six points and sit at the top of the leaderboard. After an accidental eye poke from Sadibou Sy, the fight was waved off and ruled a no-contest. Both fighters received one point for the result.
2018 PFL finalist & 2019 Welterweight Champion Cooper looks to make it a third consecutive year of reaching the final. The knockout artist finished all four opponents in his path towards the final in 2018. He faced the wrath of the talented Russian Magomed Magomedkerimov. Cooper struggled to handle the wrestling of Magomedkerimov but still hounded him with the pressure. Inside the second round, Magomedkerimov found another taken down and quickly pulled off a guillotine choke that forced Cooper to tap in seconds.
On his way towards the 2019 finals, Cooper was knocked out for the second time in his career. Former UFC fighter John Howard came up with a beautiful left to drop Cooper. He eventually found his way back to his feet for Howard to drop him again and finish him off for good.
Cooper was scheduled to face Magomedkerimov at the semi-final stage, but the Russian pulled out due to illness. Cooper ended up getting a TKO against Chris Curtis to face David Michaud in the final. After a dominant first round from Cooper, Michaud clipped him on a couple of occasions in the second. Cooper stayed alive and caught him with a crippling body shot that dropped Michaud to the ground. Cooper pounced and finished him with the ground & pound to win the tournament.
The mentality of Cooper is to finish his opponent as quickly as possible. With 14 TKO/KO’s and seven submissions, he has never won a fight by going the distance. Aleksakhin has been victorious by going the distance on 11 occasions, but he loves a finish, with 10 TKO/KO’s and four submissions to his name.
Aleksakhin has been all around the globe competing in MMA promotions. He started his professional MMA career in 2011 in his home country of Russia. Four years and 21 fights later, Aleksakhin was asked to compete with ONE Championship in Beijing, China. He finished Burenzorig Batmunkh in the third round by rear-naked choke.
After only two defeats in 22 fights, Aleksakhin was defeated in his next two. He was meant to face the dominating welterweight champion, Ben Askren, for the ONE title. Unfortunately, he missed weight, and the bout turned into a catchweight bout. “Funky” did what he does best and dominated the Russian on the ground to win via unanimous decision. Aleksakhin re-joined Fight Nights Global and was defeated by Saygid Izgakhmaev on his return.
In the last four years, he’s turned a corner, with no defeats in his last eight fights. Aleksakhin is an aggressive fighter and can hit people with tons of power. Cooper will have to be careful fighting recklessly against him. Failure to do so will more than likely lead to him getting caught by a powerful right hand. This fight is a must-watch on the PFL 5 main card.
Emiliano Sordi (23-8) vs Dan Spohn (18-8)
Another 2019 PFL Champion of the light heavyweight division, Argentinian Emiliano Sordi, takes on the “Dragon” Dan Spohn. Sordi made it six wins a row when he defeated PFL debutant Chris Camozzi via unanimous decision at PFL 2. Despair for Spohn as he made three losses in a row at PFL 2. He was caught in an arm-triangle choke by Marthin Hamlet Nielsen in the second round to make the match-up against Sordi a must-win.
After receiving the $1 million PFL prize, Sordi’s first instinct wasn’t to go and spend all of his money on luxuries but to help his local community instead. He gave back by helping thousands of people in his hometown of Rio Cuarto, a small city in the province of Cordoba in Argentina.
In an interview with MMAJunkie in November 2020, Sordi stated: “We started giving food to about 300 people, and we got to a point where we gave food to 3,000. So economically, I didn’t enjoy any of the $1 million. I didn’t buy anything. I didn’t go on vacation. I mean, I was locked at home. But I used those resources to help people who were going through a rough time.”
A true gentleman outside of the cage, but inside, he’s somebody you do not want to mess with. 14 TKO/KO’s and seven submissions have come in his 23 victories. He’s appeared in several promotions in South America, even Bellator, and an appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series before joining PFL in 2018. Ryan Spann submitted Sordi after 26 seconds in the first round on the Contender Series.
He knocked out Jason Butcher in 16 seconds on his PFL debut in the 2018 season, which has seen him progress through to the play-offs. He was TKO’d only one minute and 43 seconds into the quarter-final against Bozigit Ataev, but Sordi would have his revenge in the following season.
Sordi came back a different fighter in the 2019 season, with four first-round finishes on his way towards the final. Two of those came against Ataev, showing how far he’d come from his first year in PFL. Sordi faced Jordan Johnson in the 2019 finals, and he dropped him, then finished him with the ground & pound in the first round to win the tournament.
Spohn began training in Kung Fu at the age of 12 and Aiki Jitsu when he was 14. Also, he has studied traditional Kachido Aikijitsu for the past 17 years under Sensei Tim McConahay. Spohn holds the rank of 3rd-degree black belt in the art of Kachido Aikijistu and serves as a part-time co-instructor at Cambridge Martial Arts dojo when he is back in his hometown in Columbus.
With a record of 8-3, Spohn signed up for The Ultimate Fighter Season 19 in 2014. He got on the show by winning his preliminary match against Tyler King, producing a spectacular knockout, with UFC president Dana White calling it “probably the nastiest f*****g knockout” of the entire show’s history. He lost in the semi-finals of the show by TKO to Matt Van Buren. Luckily, he was awarded fight of the season in the war against Van Buren.
Spohn did make one appearance in the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter finale card, losing to Patrick Walsh via unanimous decision. Spohn was released, and he chose to explore several promotions, winning three titles along the way. An impressive first-round submission on Dana White’s Contender Series caught the eyes of PFL, who signed him up for the 2018 season.
The road started well with him winning his first two bouts in the 2018 season, but he was defeated at the quarter-final stage, with Sean O’Connell winning via majority decision in a close affair. After his defeat earlier this season to Nielsen, Spohn will be teething to get back to winning ways on the PFL 5 main card
Cezar Ferreira (14-8) vs Chris Camozzi (25-15)
The PFL 5 main card produces two veterans in the sport, who are finally coming together in the cage, eight years after they were scheduled to fight in the UFC. The pair were due to fight at UFC on FX 8 in 2013, but Cezar Ferreira pulled out due to injury. Camozzi fought Jacare Souza instead and faced the first-round defeat via arm-triangle choke.
A rough childhood and leaving home at 17, Ferreira lived in Brazil and was brought up by the one and only Vitor Belfort, who helped feed, look after, and train Ferreira at his gym. After five professional fights, with one loss, he joined The Ultimate Fighter Season 1: Brazil in 2012. Belfort and Wanderlei Silva were the coaches, with Ferreira being part of Belfort’s team.
After two submissions and a stunning head-kick, Ferreira walked his way to the final against Sergio Moraes. A strong performance saw him victorious via unanimous decision, and he met Thiago Santos next in the octagon. 47 seconds was the amount of time Ferreira needed to submit Santos with a guillotine choke and make a huge statement.
The Brazilian has beaten several quality fighters in his career, including Anthony Smith and Jack Hermansson. He’s also faced Sam Alvey, Jorge Masvidal, and his most recent defeat before leaving the UFC, Marvin Vettori. Left and right hooks were the answer in his PFL debut when he knocked out Nick Roehrick in only 37 seconds into the first round to earn himself six points.
Camozzi spent a total of seven years with the UFC before his contract expired in 2017. The bout with Ferreira will be his 41st appearance, as he needs to win to qualify for the play-offs. Earlier this season, Camozzi was defeated by Sordi at PFL 2021 #2.
The American joined the UFC with a record of 12-3 in 2010. He won his first two fights before being submitted by Kyle Noke at UFC 127. It’s safe to say the UFC was a massive experience for Camozzi, with him leaving the promotions with 10 wins and 10 losses.
Like Ferreira, Camozzi is a versatile fighter with seven TKO/KO’s and eight submissions to his name. It’s a battle of the legends with a potential classic on the PFL 5 main card.
Which fight are you most looking forward too on the PFL 5 main card? Let us know in the comments below!
Featured Image Credits to: Professional Fighters League