After eight weeks, the PFL Challenger Series schedule for its 2023 season is about to come to a close, but not before the season finale on Friday night. As usual, the backlot of Universal Orlando will play host to the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event (main card Friday, 9 pm ET/ 6 pm PT, Fubo Sports Network.)
On the surface, PFL Challenger Series 8 will operate just as the rest of the season has, albeit with three very important caveats: This week, there will be no specific weight class profiled, and all fighters appearing will return for their second chance at a PFL contract. Also atypical of a Challenger Series event is the fact that there will be five fights taking place instead of the customary four.
Last week, UFC alum Impa Kasanganay (11-3 MMA) secured the guaranteed deal at light heavyweight by defeating Osama Elsaidy (8-3 MMA) by first-round knockout (punches.) This week, lightweights get a second chance in the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event.
St. Louis Takes on Henrique Friday Night
Kendly St. Louis (8-4 MMA) returns to square off against Paulo Henrique (14-6 MMA) in the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event. All Challenger Series fights are treated the same as a regular season fight or playoff semifinal. Thus, the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event will be an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the season.
The PFL’s calendar of events is just getting started for this calendar year, however. A week from Saturday, the inaugural season of PFL Europe begins with PFL Europe 1 in Newcastle upon Tyne.
PFL Challenger Series 8 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the last main event of this year’s Challenger Series itinerary, Paulo Henrique is the taller fighter at six feet even, compared to the 5-foot-11 frame of Kendly St. Louis. St. Louis owns a 77-inch reach, with no such information for Henrique available at press time.
As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have Kendly St. Louis installed as a -180 favorite, with Paulo Henrique countering as a +150 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening over the weekend, please wager responsibly.
Kendly St. Louis Looking to Build Off Short-Notice Win Back in January
Kendly St. Louis, an alumnus of Cage Fury Fighting Championships, has gone undefeated at 5-0 over his last five fights. He first made an appearance on the Challenger Series back on opening night in January.
That evening, he scored a second-round submission due to a rear-naked choke against Nick Alley (7-6 MMA) in the first bout of the Challenger Series season. Alley wasn’t supposed to have been St. Louis’ opponent, however.
Initially, Nick Alley was to face off against Mostafa Rashad Neda (7-3 MMA) in a welterweight bout, but the latter had to withdraw from the fight. Kendly St. Louis, who was already in Orlando to serve as Thad Jean‘s cornerman later on in the evening, accepted the bout on extremely short notice and got the win.
After the bout, St. Louis discussed the quick turnaround with Sean O’Connell.
“Well, I train seven days a week, no days off, twice a day sometimes, and I’m always with my coach”, St. Louis said. “I’m always training. When I mean every day, I mean every day. No days off. So, I feel pretty good with my total gameplan and my coaches keeping me calm.”
St. Louis won’t have that quick of a turnaround for the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event, but he’s earned his second chance just the same. Can he pull off another win and get the contract this time?
Paulo Henrique Aiming to Get Back to Winning Ways
In the other corner, Paulo Henrique has posted a 3-2 record in his last five bouts. Most recently, he saw a two-fight winning streak snapped at the hands of Manoel Sousa (10-0 MMA) about a month ago during PFL Challenger Series 4.
Regardless of what happens on Friday night, Paulo Henrique’s story is inspiring. Henrique is hearing impaired and should he secure the contract after the headliner, he would become the first such contender to fight in the league.
By the time the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event begins, it’ll be four weeks to the day since Henrique’s last MMA fight. While ring rust affecting a fighter is one thing, a quick turnaround in-between fights is another ballgame entirely.
Sometimes, a fighter who’s been informed that he has to fight again just mere weeks after a competition can’t get himself ready to go a second time. How long of a training camp will he have had when compared to Kendly St. Louis and his constant training regime?
The answers will be known soon enough.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event looks to favor Paulo Henrique, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Kendly St. Louis’ background as a boxer.
Look For Kendly St. Louis to Go to the Ground in PFL Challenger Series 8 Main Event
Though Kendly St. Louis is known for punching his adversaries out cold, he can get the job done on the ground. Nick Alley found this out the hard way two months ago.
During round two of the fight, Alley came out hitting with a punch to the head and a kick to the body, forcing St. Louis to effectively counterpunch. St. Louis had Alley in his wheelhouse and the fight quickly turned into a boxing match.
About a minute and a half into the second period, St. Louis took Alley down and quickly secured top mount, softening him up with ground and pound shots for a possible submission. The former expertly took the latter’s back and applied the needed torque to lock in the submission halfway through the round.
If Kendly St. Louis can dump Paulo Henrique in the PFL Challenger Series 8 main event, it could be a good night for him.
Paulo Henrique Can End the Show Rather Abruptly
In the other corner, no one watching should look away when Paulo Henrique is in the cage. They’re liable to miss the whole contest.
He can make any night at the office a quick one. Back in November, Henrique executed a slam of Magnus Conrado to drop him and landed a flurry of ground and pound-shots, ending the fight in just 17 seconds.
Should Henrique knock St. Louis down just once, the most inspiring story this year in the Challenger Series might be writing the next chapter on the main roster.
If you’ve been watching the PFL Challenger Series all year long, you’ve been seeing some talented fighters. The 10 fighters who got their second chance have been most deserving of it.
Prediction: Kendly St. Louis by Unanimous Decision.
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