Weekend Warrior: Professional Fighters League Playoffs in Full Swing

Gasan Umalatov kicks Paulo Thiago. Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC / Contributor (Getty Images)

The Professional Fighters League on Saturday will pull into Washington, D.C., with PFL 9 at the 18,000-seat St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena. The event — which airs live on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT — features the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.

Ray Cooper III enters the welterweight draw as the No. 1 seed and faces a rematch with former Shooto, Strikeforce, and EliteXC champion Jake Shields in the quarterfinals. Cooper wiped out Shields with second-round punches at PFL 3 on July 5 and has recorded wins in 12 of his past 14 appearances. One of the sport’s most accomplished welterweights, the eighth-seeded Shields rebounded with a unanimous decision over Herman Terrado at PFL 6 some two months later.

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The remaining quarterfinal pairings at 170 pounds are as follows: (4) Rick Story vs. (5) Handesson Ferreira, (3) Magomed Magomedkerimov vs. (6) Pavel Kusch and (2) Abubakar Nurmagomedov vs. (7) Bojan Velickovic.

Meanwhile, Abusupiyan Magomedov carries the top seed in the middleweight tournament and eyes a showdown with Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Gasan Umalatov in the quarterfinals. Magomedov, 28, has won eight fights in a row, all of them finishes — a run that includes PFL regular-season victories against Anderson Goncalves and Danillo Villefort. The eighth-seeded Umalatov last competed at PFL 6 on Aug. 16, when he took a three-round unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter 19” winner Eddie Gordon.

Gasan Umalatov. Photo: Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

The remaining middleweight pairings at 185 pounds are as follows: (4) Bruno Santos vs. (5) Sadibou Sy, (3) Shamil Gamzatov vs. (6) John Howard and (2) Louis Taylor vs. (7) Rex Harris.

The semifinal bouts in both weight classes are also scheduled to take place at PFL 9, with the victors moving on to their respective tournament championships on Dec. 31 in New York. There, $1 million in prize money will be on the line.

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While the UFC and Bellator MMA organizations are idle, the regional scene offers plenty of options for fight fans. It starts with Cage Warriors Fighting Championship and Cage Warriors 98 on Saturday at Genting Arena in Birmingham, England. The event — which streams live to UFC Fight Pass at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT — features a battle for the welterweight title, as Stefan Paterno defends his crown against the unbeaten Ross Houston.

Finally, the Houston-based Legacy Fighting Alliance promotion will return to the stage on Friday at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas. A bantamweight tilt pitting Ray Rodriguez against Factory X representative Chris Gutierrez headlines LFA 52. Rodriguez, 30, has rattled off eight consecutive wins. The event airs live on AXS-TV at 9 p.m. ET.

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