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PFL Challenger Series 1 Co-Main Event Breakdown

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It was two months ago Wednesday that the 2022 PFL season closed with former PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison (15-1 MMA, 14-1 PFL) losing for the first time in her career against Larissa Pacheco (19-4 MMA, 8-2 PFL) in the PFL 10 main event. With both the UFC and Bellator MMA out of action this last weekend in January, a light weekend of action looms in the sport.

The road to this year’s PFL Championships starts this Friday night. Universal Orlando will play host to the second season of the PFL Challenger Series. Live coverage of the Challenger Series begins this and each of the next eight Fridays at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT on Fubo Sports Network.

Similarities and Differences to Contender Series and How You Can Get Involved

Like Dana White’s Contender Series, the Challenger Series features competitors vying for a shot at a PFL contract for the upcoming regular season. Unlike Contender Series, however, each week is devoted specifically to a particular weight division.

Over the next eight Fridays, each of the seven weight classes will get a chance to shine, with a second-chance night being held on the last week, March 17.

In addition, you, the viewer, will have a chance to decide which of the eight fighters scores a PFL deal. A panel of celebrity judges vote on the winning fighters, but the home audience also has a say in the matter. During the card each week, viewers can vote on the PFL’s official Twitter for their favorite fighter.

Cage Fury Welterweight Alumni Do Battle in PFL Challenger Series 1 Co-Main Event

This week, the welterweight division gets its moment in the spotlight. There are two appealing contests at the top of the card, beginning with the PFL Challenger Series 1 co-main event.

Two alumni from Atlantic City-based promotion Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) will be vying for a PFL deal in the PFL Challenger Series 1 co-main event. Eric Alequin (7-0 MMA), most recently the CFFC Welterweight Champion, will face off against Thad Jean, who fought in CFFC in October of 2021.

All Challenger Series fights are treated like regular season contests in the PFL, so this co-main event will be a maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round.

PFL Challenger Series 1 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the PFL Challenger Series 1 co-main event on Friday, Thad Jean stands as the taller man at 6-foot-2, compared to the 5-foot-11 frame of Eric Alequin. Jean owns a 77-inch reach, with no such information available for Alequin.

As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have Thad Jean installed as a -260 favorite (the largest favorite on Friday’s show), with Eric Alequin countering as a +200 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Eric Alequin Comes Off 10-Month Layoff For Bid at PFL Deal

Eric Alequin enters the PFL Challenger Series 1 co-main event having yet to lose thus far in his professional career and is currently on a 10-fight winning streak including amateur competition. Last time out, he scored a unanimous decision victory after four rounds against Hugh Pulley (8-6, 1 NC MMA, 0-2 CFFC) on St. Patrick’s Day in the CFFC 106 co-main event to take the then-vacant welterweight title.

After, he was slated to return to the CFFC banner on July 14. That night, Alequin was to have faced Charlie Radtke (6-3 MMA, 3-0 CFFC) in CFFC 110 for a defense of the title but withdrew from the event before it was to have taken place due to a torn hamstring.

After the postponement, the latter was rebooked to fight Caleb Crump (4-3-1 MMA, 0-1 CFFC) in a nontitle affair, winning by first-round knockout. Thus, Alequin has not fought in roughly 10 1/2 months ahead of this fight.

“I had a couple of months to recover (from the torn hamstring),” Alequin said in a recent interview with Jason Cruz, “and just stayed in the gym, kind of dial it. So, I’m slowly climbing, slowly climbing. As we signed the fight, then the notch turns it up, we start to kick in the intensity.”

He’s had time away to heal the torn hamstring and has trained, but is Alequin ready to handle his first live-action in almost a year? Tune in Friday and find out.

Thad Jean Hungry For a Knockout in PFL Challenger Series 1 Co-Main Event

In the other corner, Thad Jean has been undefeated himself in his professional career, having won seven fights in succession dating back to his amateur MMA career. Most recently, he scored a unanimous decision on Sept. 30 against Georgie Medina (2-1 MMA) in Combate Global.

During a recent interview with Inside Sport, Jean mentioned that he’d like to knock Alequin out.

“How do I think it ends?”, Jean pondered. “I think it ends with a knee to the face, an uppercut, or a roundhouse (kick.) I think I TKO him or I knock him out within the first or second round, maybe off a counter or something. I see Eric Alequin as someone who’s cherry-picked his opponents if anything.”

Confident words from Thad Jean, but can he back them up with a knockout as he predicts? Only time will tell.

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the PFL Challenge Series 1 co-main event seems to favor Eric Alequin, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Thad Jean’s status as a purple belt in jiu-jitsu. Thus, it stands to reason that we could be looking at a ground war on Friday.

Watch For Alequin’s Ground Game

Being a BJJ black belt, once Eric Alequin gets a fight to the ground, it’s his world. During the second round of his last fight against Hugh Pulley, after having grappled with him in the first round and nearly finishing the fight with a submission, Alequin dropped him again and took back mount.

From there, Alequin grappled effectively and controlled the clock while also keeping his hands tightly wrapped around Pulley’s neck to stifle any offensive effort. Pulley was able to stay conscious and was able to take top mount, maintaining control throughout the final seconds of the round.

Alequin was the better fighter of the two, and it was his efforts in the second round that won him the fight. All it will take to give Eric Alequin the opening he needs to win the PFL Challenger Series 1 co-main event is a single takedown.

Thad Jean Has One-Punch Power

In the other corner, watch out for Thad Jean’s punches. If one lands right on the button, it could be a wrap, which Sarek Shields learned firsthand back in April.

During the second round of a scheduled three, Shields opened things up with a clinch, yet Jean was able to walk him over to the cage fence to stifle a takedown effort. About a minute and 20 seconds into the round, Jean took Shields down, only for Shields to escape.

Jean wrestled Shields to the ground again, taking top mount. At this point, Jean slowed the pace of the fight down. After a period of inactivity, the referee stood the fighters up, to the applause of the crowd. Right after the resumption of the fight, Jean unloaded with a single right-handed punch to knock him out.

Thad Jean only needs one blow to end the PFL Challenger Series 1 main event.

Final Thoughts

If ever there were a fight where diehard fans of Cage Fury could unite as one, Friday’s co-headliner is it. The winner could very well be just a few minutes away from clinching his spot on the PFL’s roster and a chance at $1 million by the time next fall rolls around.

Prediction: Eric Alequin by Unanimous Decision.

Featured Image Credit: Getty Images

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about MMA since the spring of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and an even better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.


  • JR Yuen says:

    I may have overlooked it, but where will this be broadcast?


    • Austin Marr says:

      Live coverage of the Challenger Series begins this and each of the next eight Fridays at 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT on Fubo Sports Network.

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