ARLINGTON, Texas – The Professional Fighters League made its highly anticipated 2022 season debut tonight at Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The 10-fight event featured the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions, with statement wins from Clay Collard and 2021 champions Antonio Carlos Junior and Raush Manfio.
The main event of the first 2022 PFL regular season event between Collard and Jeremy Stephens brought the crowd to their feet after three rounds of non-stop action. Collard won the slugfest and earned three points by unanimous decision. In spoiling Stephens PFL debut, Collard moved his career record to 21-9.
In the evening’s co-main event, Manfio, 2021 PFL lightweight champion, returned to the SmartCage against Don Madge. After a frustrating first two rounds for the defending champion, Manfio earned a comeback KO in the third round, and four points in the lightweight standings. Manfio is now 5-0 in the PFL and took a step towards the PFL playoffs.
2021 PFL light heavyweight champion Carlos Junior needed only 29 seconds of the first round to submit Delan Monte, marking the second fastest finish in PFL history. Carlos Jr. earned six points, with his 11th career submission, and his record now stands at 14-5.
"Tonight, MMA's only league, the Professional Fighters League, returned with the kickoff to the 2022 regular season and showcased why every fight counts in the PFL's unique season format," PFL CEO Peter Murray said. "Our world-class fighters gave MMA fans around the world action and excitement that can only be seen in the PFL. We saw two returning champions continue their winning ways, and I can't wait to see what is in store at PFL 2."
"The kickoff to the 2022 PFL regular season was a night filled with can't-miss action," PFL president of fighter operations Ray Sefo said. "Our lightweight and light heavyweight fighters opened the season and showcased their athleticism, determination, and will to win. I look forward to seeing the same energy next week with the heavyweights and featherweights.”
Two-time PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte began the action on the season's first main card, matching up with Olivier Aubin-Mercier. The fight lasted the full three rounds, with Aubin-Mercier earning a hard fought three points by split decision. Aubin-Mercier improved his undefeated PFL record to 3-0, and an overall career record of 14-5.
Rounding out the card on ESPN+, 2019 PFL light heavyweight champion Emiliano Sordi and Cory Hendricks took to the SmartCage. Hendricks defeated Sordi by second-round TKO and earned five points in the competitive light heavyweight standings. Hendricks was initially scheduled as an alternate for the season, but received a late opportunity to compete and seized the moment.
Leading off the action in the lightweight division was Alexander Martinez and Stevie Ray. Martinez, a 2021 PFL lightweight semifinalist, was awarded the victory by unanimous decision and earned three points. Martinez is the youngest fighter in the division and now holds a career record of 9-2.
Further action saw Marthin Hamlet square off with Teodoras Aukstuolis in light heavyweight action. The bout went the three-round distance, with Hamlet earning the victory by unanimous decision. Hamlet, the 2021 PFL light heavyweight runner-up, earned three points in his first fight of the 2022 PFL regular season and improved his career record to 9-3.
Omari Akhmedov made a statement in his PFL debut, earning a first-round KO against Viktor Pesta. The first-round finish resulted in a quick six points in the light heavyweight standings for Akhmedov, whose career record now stands at 22-7-1 with eight knockouts.
In the first official 2022 PFL regular season bout, Robert Wilkinson matched up with Bruce Souto, PFL Challenger Series week 1 contract winner. Wilkinson defeated Soto by second-round TKO and earned five points in the light heavyweight division. Wilkinson, fighting out of Tasmania, Australia, earned his sixth career knockout, with 13 of his 14 wins coming by stoppage.
Kicking off the card on ESPN+, PFL Challenger Series week 8 contract winner Simeon Powell defeated Clinton Williams by third-round knockout in a light heavyweight showcase bout. The result moved Powell’s undefeated record to 6-0 with three career knockouts. Five of his six wins have come by way of stoppage.
The PFL action returns to Esports Stadium Arlington on Thursday night, April 28, with featherweight and heavyweight division matchups. 2021 PFL heavyweight champion Bruno Cappelozza will match up with Stuart Austin in the main event and 2021 PFL Featherweight breakout, Brendan Loughnane, will take on PFL newcomer Ryoji Kudo.