As PFL 1 nears, the calendar might read April 20 this coming Wednesday, but for one MMA promotion, it’ll be the dawning of a brand new year of action.
PFL Returns With PFL 1 Main Event This Wednesday Night on ESPN
This Wednesday night, six months after crowning six champions for the first time in two years, the Professional Fighters League returns to live-action for the start of its fourth season with PFL 1 (main card 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT, ESPN) from ESports Stadium in Arlington, TX, where the first half of this year’s regular season will be held, with the remaining regular-season cards held in Atlanta at a host venue to be announced later.
It’s the first chance for lightweights and light heavyweights to accumulate points in the standings toward becoming the four competitors in those weight classes to qualify for the PFL Playoffs in August.
The winners of the semifinal fights later on this summer will then progress to the PFL Championships card on Black Friday, Nov. 25.
It’ll be a 10-fight card, capped off by the PFL 1 main event in the lightweight division as Clay Collard (20-9,1NC MMA) returns from the squared circle of boxing to meet Jeremy Stephens (28-19,1NC MMA) in a battle of UFC alumni.
As with all PFL regular season and semifinal bouts, the PFL 1 main event will be a maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.
PFL 1 Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into the first PFL main event of the new season this Wednesday evening, Clay Collard stands as the taller man at six feet even, with Jeremy Stephens standing at 5-foot-9.
In addition, Clay Collard owns a three-inch reach advantage (74 inches to 71 inches) over Jeremy Stephens, with Collard owning a 41-inch leg reach.
No such information, however, was found for Jeremy Stephens’ leg reach.
Clay Collard Hungry For a Victory in PFL 1 Main Event
Clay Collard has posted a record of 4-1 in his last five MMA fights, seeing a four-fight winning streak inside the cage snapped last time out against Raush Manfio in PFL 7 last August.
In the interim, he went 0-2 in boxing last December, including a first-round knockout due to right hooks against Yoelvis Gomez during a FOX PBC Fight Night on Christmas.
Therefore, Clay Collard heads into Wednesday’s headliner starving for a victory, and he added fuel to the fire in the run-up to the PFL 1 main event, giving the Stephens camp bulletin board material in an interview with MMA Junkie.
“To be honest, I don’t give a (censored) what he thinks,” Collard began. “You can’t deny that I’m a good fighter. I beat former world champions. I don’t think I lost a fight in the PFL last year, so he can think what he wants, but I’m a big dog and I’m ready to scrap. I’ve been training hard for this one, so I’m ready to welcome him to the PFL, no matter what he thinks.”
This is a confident statement by one of last year’s semifinalists at 155 lbs., but can he back up his words by the time the cage door shuts on Wednesday night?
Tune in and find out.
Jeremy Stephens Looks For a Fresh Start Less than Three Months After UFC Release in PFL 1 Main Event
Jeremy Stephens enters the PFL 1 main event, as well as a new chapter in his career as a fighter, having gone 0-4 with one no-contest in his last five MMA appearances, a winless streak dating back to the summer of 2018, having been submitted by a kimura choke against Mateuz Gamrot last summer and approximately two and a half months ago, he was released from the UFC.
The 34-fight veteran of MMA’s top promotion announced in January on The MMA Hour that he’d be joining the PFL effective with Wednesday night’s main event, stating that the former promotion wasn’t acting in his best interests.
“I’ve been fighting beasts, a murderer’s row for two decades, and I just felt like I was getting iced out,” Stephens said. “Only fighting once a year, that’s not good on the bank account. I’m just trying to be typical, just like you– I’m trying to provide for my family, and the only way I can do that is to fight, and they weren’t really fighting me.”
Can Jeremy Stephens turn it around and make one last ride in the twilight of his career?
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the PFL 1 main event on Wednesday night looks to favor Jeremy Stephens, a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a former high school wrestler in his home state of Iowa, compared to Clay Collard’s background in wrestling and boxing.
Jeremy Stephens Can Punch His Way to a Win
Despite Jeremy Stephens’ recent shortcomings, he has shown that he can score the victory by vicious knockout, as he did against Josh Emmett in 2018.
During the second round of a scheduled five, Stephens knocked Emmett down with a vicious left-handed punch, nearly closing the show with a flurry of ground and pound shots, but from there, a brief moment of controversy ensued.
Footage from the live telecast of that fight shows that Jeremy Stephens delivered a knee to Josh Emmett while he was on the mat. a strike that, had it been on-target, would have been illegal, yet Dan Miragliotta, who refereed the bout, maintained that Stephens was errant with his attempt.
All of this would prove to be for naught as Stephens removed any trace of doubt by scoring with elbows to finish the fight.
If Stephens’ left-handed punches are on-point, you might not want to blink when you watch the PFL 1 main event, or else you’ll miss the whole fight.
Clay Collard Has One-Punch Power, Too
In the other corner, Clay Collard only initially took up boxing to try and shore up his punches for MMA during his training camps, but as the tape of his TKO victory against Raymond Guajardo in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) indicates, he can box his way to a win.
During the second round of a scheduled six, after a first round that saw both men get knocked down and Collard nearly finish Guajardo at the end of the round with a left hook, Collard repeatedly teed off on Guajardo.
Although Guajardo returned fire with body shots, it wasn’t anywhere close to enough, as Collard was simply too much for him to handle, scoring the TKO due to unanswered strikes.
Folks, the referee couldn’t even jump in quickly enough to wave that one off.
If Clay Collard can keep Jeremy Stephens on his feet and tee off on him with punches, the referee will have no choice but to wave off the PFL 1 main event.
Although it’s the first PFL main event of the new season, don’t you dare sleep on the headlining bout this Wednesday, as it looks to be a good one.
The first few minutes of this fight could tell the tale for the entirety of the three rounds, and whoever establishes and maintains control of the bout has a good shot at winning it.
Prediction: Jeremy Stephens by First-Round Knockout.
Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images