Even though this weekend has a major holiday, there’s still a full slate of MMA to be had before Easter. On Saturday night, UFC 287 finds the promotion in South Beach with a battle for the UFC Middleweight Championship between Alex “Poatan” Pereira (7-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and Israel Adesanya (23-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) in a rematch of their bout from last November.
This week, Friday night, MMA"s league is back for the second regular season event of six, 2023 PFL 2 and the PFL 2 main event. After the conclusion of next weekend"s PFL 3, the promotion will take seven weeks away from live action before the second half of the regular season begins, and the venue shifts to Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta on June 8. This week, PFL 2 sees women"s featherweights and heavyweights entering the cage for their first fight of two in regular season action.
Live coverage begins Friday at 6:30 pm ET/ 3:30 pm PT on ESPN+, continuing at 10 pm ET/ 7 pm PT on ESPN2. The main ESPN channel will be occupied by a primetime replay of the second-round coverage of The Masters. All told PFL 2 will feature 11 fights, including a rare contest in the amateur ranks.
2022 Women"s Lightweight Champion Pacheco Meets Budd in PFL 2 Main Event
Highlighting the night"s activities is a contest in the women"s featherweight division during the PFL 2 main event. 2022 PFL Women"s Lightweight Champion Larissa Pacheco (19-4 MMA, 0-0 PFL 2023, zero points in the standings) begins her quest to become the champion at 145 lbs. when she takes on former Bellator MMA Women"s Featherweight Champion Julia Budd (16-5 MMA, 0-0 PFL 2023, zero points in the standings).
As with all PFL regular season and semifinal fights, the PFL 2 main event is an advertised maximum of three rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.
PFL 2 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the PFL 2 main event on Friday night, Julia Budd stands as the taller combatant at 5-foot-8, compared to the 5-foot-6 frame of Larissa Pacheco. In addition, Budd owns a one-inch reach advantage (70 inches to 69 inches) and a three-inch leg reach advantage (40 inches to 37 inches) over Pacheco.
As of Monday afternoon, the oddsmakers have Larissa Pacheco installed as a -550 favorite, with Julia Budd countering as a +375 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Larissa Pacheco Sees an Easy Road to Become Featherweight Champion
Larissa Pacheco enters Friday"s PFL 2 main event having gone perfect at 5-0 in her last five fights. At present, she"s on a six-fight winning streak.
On Black Friday, Pacheco completed one of the most stunning upsets in MMA in recent memory when she defeated the previously-unbeaten Kayla Harrison (15-1 MMA, 3-1 2022 PFL) during the PFL 10 main event to secure the lightweight title. Now, she has a target on her back, but she views her upcoming opponents as mid-card-level talent.
During a recent interview with Curtis Calhoun of MMANews.com, Pacheco mentioned that she doesn"t imagine that she"ll be challenged too much this season.
“Whatever I"m put up against, a competitor who has a strong suit on one side, I can either get the job done on what she sees or resort to one of the tools that I might have in my arsenal and get the job done there," Pacheco said. “I feel like I"ve faced the top of my division here over the course of the years at 155 lbs. I"m not trying to look down on my opponents or look past them, but I just feel like this is the reality. I feel like I"m on a different level."
Friday"s headliner is her first contest at featherweight since 2018. The only question for Larissa Pacheco ahead of the PFL 2 main event is an easy one: After knocking Harrison from the ranks of the undefeated last November, what can she do for an encore? Tune in on Friday and find out.
Julia Budd Looks to Snap Two-Fight Losing Streak
In the other corner, Julia Budd has posted a 3-2 record over her last five contests, but she"s fallen back of late. Currently, she"s on a two-fight losing streak.
Most recently, she dropped a split decision at the hands of Aspen Ladd (10-3 MMA) during a showcase bout at 145 lbs. during PFL 10 over the Thanksgiving weekend. Last season, she went 0-1 at lightweight, with a planned fight against Kayla Harrison on July 1 withdrawn due to an injury. Recently, she discussed the new season with Cageside Press.
“Last year, obviously, the 155-lb. season didn"t go as planned for me; I was out after that first fight," Budd said. So, basically, I"m looking at this year as a brand new, fresh start and I can"t wait to get in there."
With a full training camp completed, will Julia Budd score the upset?
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the PFL 2 main event looks to be a toss-up. Both of these women have backgrounds in Muay Thai, but Julia Budd is a kickboxer and a Muay Thai fighter.
Pacheco Can Pile on the Punches
Even though she had to go the distance in her title bout against Harrison, Larissa Pacheco has been known to work quickly in the cage. Just ask Julija Pajic, who was on the receiving end of a Pacheco knockout in 2021.
Right from the opening round"s opening bell, Pacheco sat Pajic down with a nasty left hook and immediately took top mount, scoring with a flurry of ground-and-pound shots. The initial onslaught of punches gave Pajic no attempt to even try and mount a comeback.
Within the fight"s first 23 seconds, she"d already landed 12 punches. Pacheco continued to rain strikes down on Pajic like a thunderstorm in the springtime until the latter"s corner threw in the towel to end the fight.
If Larissa Pacheco can open up the PFL 2 main event with a left hook, it"ll be game on. One punch is going to be all it will take to knock Julia Budd down. It could be all she needs to knock Julia Budd out, too.
Don"t Discount Julia Budd
In the other corner, Julia Budd can also punch her way to a victory. During Bellator 202"s main event, she battled Talita Nogueira and in the third round, Budd put up a dominant performance. About a minute into the round, she peppered Nogueira with leg kicks, putting her up against the cage fence and landing some punches to the head.
After scoring with a knee to the body, Budd grappled with her and landed a few more shots to the head, attempting to transition to a takedown. For a moment, it looked as though Budd wanted Nogueira to rise to her feet so that they could continue the bout standing, but she landed a few leg kicks to her downed opponent.
From there, she took the top mount and connected on a slicing punch to the head. Budd started grappling with Nogueira, landing the occasional shot to soften her up. It wouldn"t come to a submission, though, since she landed copious punches to bloody her adversary.
While Nogueira was ordered back up by the official, she didn"t stay there long, since Budd sat her right back down with a right-handed punch. A brief flurry of ground and pound shots ended the fight.
If Julia Budd is to win the PFL 2 main event, she"ll have to wear Larissa Pacheco down. Knocking Pacheco off of her game plan would give Budd the upper hand.
The PFL 2 main event is another one of those bouts with competitors at a crossroads. You"ll have Pacheco on a hot streak, in search of a satisfying encore after an upset nobody saw coming, while on the other side of the cage, Julia Budd tries to stop her skid. May the better fighter win.
Prediction: Larissa Pacheco by First-Round TKO.
Featured Image Credit