If it’s August, it must mean that it’s time to at least start thinking about the playoffs, but make no mistake, we’re not talking about Major League Baseball‘s stretch run to the pennant races or the final two months of the Major League Soccer season.
August means that it’s time for the playoffs in MMA’s only league, the PFL.
Over the course of these next three weekends, the 2022 PFL playoffs will take place, with all roads leading to Black Friday, Nov. 25, and PFL 10: Championships, where $1 million (USD) in prize money will await this year’s titleholders.
It all begins this Friday with PFL 7, where semifinal fights in the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions will take place from Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Rematch At Lightweight in PFL 7 Main Event
All told, PFL 7 will feature an 11-fight card, highlighted by a lightweight semifinal in the PFL 7 main event, when top-seeded Anthony Pettis (25-13 MMA, 1-1 PFL 2022, six points in the standings) will meet No. 4 seed Stevie Ray (24-10 MMA, 1-1 PFL 2022, five points in the standings) in a rematch from PFL 5 back in June.
Just as was the case in regular-season competition, the PFL 7 main event will be an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the main portion of the show.
The winner of the main event on Friday night will advance to the championship card on Black Friday, where he’ll face the winner of the 2 vs. 3 contest between Olivier Aubin-Mercier (15-5 MMA, 2-0 PFL 2022, six points in the standings) and Alex Martinez (10-2 MMA, 2-0 PFL, six points in the standings) for the title.
PFL 7 Main Event Fighter Comparison
Heading into the PFL 7 main event on Friday night, both of these men stand level at 5-foot-10, so it’ll be in the reach category where they’ll gain a little bit of separation.
Anthony Pettis owns a three-inch reach advantage (73 inches to 70 inches) over Stevie Ray, with both men level at leg reach (40 inches apiece) going into the semifinals.
The Last Meeting
This is the second time in three cards that Anthony Pettis will have fought Stevie Ray, as their previous confrontation at PFL 5 on June 24 was won by Ray, who locked in a second-round submission (modified twister) to secure five points in the standings and ultimately set up a rematch on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
Thus, it stands to reason that revenge will be on Showtime’s mind this weekend.
Anthony Pettis is Ready for the Rematch on Friday
Anthony Pettis comes into the PFL 7 main event on Friday having posted a record of 2-3 in his last five appearances, including a victory against Myles Price (first-round submission: triangle choke) during PFL 3 on May 6.
On Tuesday, Pettis met with the media ahead of this week’s card, where he thought that neither fighter had the advantage going into the rematch.
“I’ve had rematches and I’ve won all my rematches,” Pettis said. “He caught me in a submission, man, no lie. He caught me in a position that I initiated. That’s what’s kind of frustrating about the whole thing. I don’t usually shoot (for) takedowns, I was winning the stand-up (battle), but I was trying to play it safe because I knew I had this fight coming up that really mattered. I got caught, wrong mindset, I’m living and I’m learning still. Even though I’ve been in this sport for a long time, I’m still learning.”
If Anthony Pettis is to progress through to the million-dollar showdown on Thanksgiving weekend, he’ll have to treat the PFL 7 main event as though it’s a championship fight.
Stevie Ray Adding Bulletin Board Material to PFL 7 Main Event
In the other corner, Stevie Ray has gone 3-2 in his last five MMA fights dating back to his career in the UFC, including a majority decision victory against Michael Johnson in his last UFC fight almost three years ago.
After the first fight between Ray and Pettis, the former cut a decent promo in an interview.
“It’s a rematch with him, I’m sure, if he’s healthy,” Ray said. “It means that I’ll rematch him because he was automatically through. I hope I’ve not done damage to his rib. I’ll see you again in six weeks in New York.”
Six weeks is now down to just a few days and these two men are ready to lock horns for the second time this year, albeit with higher stakes this time around.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the PFL 7 main event on Friday night seems to favor Anthony Pettis, a 3rd dan black belt in Taekwondo and a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Stevie Ray, a brown belt in BJJ.
This one may very well be another ground battle.
“Showtime” Can Be Brutal With Submissions
One aspect of Anthony Pettis’ fight game that shows itself on video is his ability to score the submission, as he did four years ago vs. Michael Chiesa.
During the second round of a scheduled three, Pettis immediately went to work by landing a body kick along with a punch and a knee to send Chiesa down.
Although Pettis had to jettison his first submission attempt (a guillotine choke), he was able to expertly grapple and apply the needed torque to lock in a triangle armbar submission for the victory.
If Pettis is able to knock Ray down, look for him to hunt for a submission.
Stevie Ray Can Score The Submission Himself
In the other corner, don’t count Stevie Ray out of the PFL 7 main event, as he is also known for getting the submission, as was the case against Curt Warburton in 2014.
During the second round of a scheduled five, Ray absorbed a combination and leg kick from Warburton before returning fire with a vicious left-handed punch to knock him down.
From there, Ray landed a flurry of ground and pound shots to try and soften Warburton up for a submission, grappling with him and eventually taking back mount, getting Warburton to tap out in two minutes.
Look for Stevie Ray to try and knock Anthony Pettis down with a punch in the PFL 7 main event on Friday, and if he’s able to land a nasty punch, it could be the opening he needs to score the submission.
The PFL 7 main event will be an appealing fight on Friday, as a score will be settled between two seasoned veterans.
Don’t miss it, because you’ll be sorry if you do.
Prediction: Stevie Ray by Unanimous Decision.
Featured image credit to Professional Fighters League