The Professional Fighters League is one step away from its night of making millionaires.
That moment comes on New Year's Eve, when the rebranded World Series of Fighting will award $1 million to the season winners in six weight classes. Four matchups for that season finale are already set, and two more -- at middleweight and welterweight -- will be sorted out at PFL 10 on Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
There are a couple of rematches among the eight quarterfinal bouts at the new St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena. And depending on how those fights play out, there could be more redos in the four semifinals later in the evening.
Here are three things to watch:
Double-take to end a championship career?
Jake Shields is the biggest name in this playoff event, with the shiniest resume. He has reigned as middleweight champion in Strikeforce and held welterweight belts in EliteXC and Shooto, and once challenged Georges St-Pierre for the UFC's 170-pound title. Shields owns victories over current UFC champ Tyron Woodley and ex-champ Robbie Lawler as well as Pride belt-holder Dan Henderson. He has accomplished a lot over a lot of years.
Want a little perspective on how long the 39-year-old Shields (33-10-1, 1 NC) has been in the game? Consider that the 2004 bout that earned him his first pro championship, in the Shooto promotion, was a choke-out submission of a fighter named Ray Cooper Jr., who was walked to the ring that night by his 11-year-old son. Fast-forward 14 years to this past July, when Shields had his first fight in this PFL welterweight tournament. His opponent was a fighter named Ray Cooper III. Yes, the son. It became a night of payback, as the 25-year-old Cooper -- with Dad in his corner -- knocked out a bloodied-up Shields in the second round.
As the tournament's top seed, Cooper (15-5) draws the No. 8 seed in Saturday's quarterfinals. That turned out to be Shields, who bounced back from the KO to slip into the quarters with a decision win over Herman Terrado in August.
Cooper is coming off an 18-second knockout. Shields has lost three of his last five fights. Is there more payback on the menu, maybe the kind that closes the curtain on a starry career in a slowdown?
Nurmagomedov is fighting
He's fresh off a fight inside the cage at UFC 229 ... but, no, it's not Khabib Nurmagomedov.
His cousin, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, was last seen in the Octagon moments after the Oct. 6 lightweight title fight with Conor McGregor ended. When he saw a raging Khabib scale the fence and leap into the midst of McGregor's cornermen, Abubakar attempted to do the same, but was stopped atop the fence by security. So was McGregor, who was also trying to reach the fray. And when the Irishman spotted Abubakar beside him on top of the cage, he took a swing and the Dagestani swung back with Khabib's papakha headgear in hand. Mayhem ensued.
Now the 28-year-old Nurmagomedov (15-2) is in a sanctioned fight, in the PFL welterweight quarterfinals, taking on former UFC fighter Bojan Velickovic (16-7-1). Nurmagomedov actually was ousted from the tournament in the first round, but is back as an alternate, replacing injured João Zeferino. If Nurmagomedov wins, he could get a shot at the fighter who eliminated him in July and ended his six-fight winning streak, Pavel Kusch. Kusch faces another Dagestani, Magomed Magomedkerimov, in the quarters.
Some names recognizable -- or not -- to UFC fans
Beyond Shields, there are a few other fighters with UFC credentials. And there also are some who, like Nurmagomedov, have built their careers in other promotions.
The top-seeded middleweight is Abusupiyan Magomedov, who is 21-3 and riding an eight-fight winning streak. He has two PFL wins after fighting most of his career in his native Germany. His opponent in the quarters is another native of Dagestan, former UFC fighter Gasan Umalatov (18-5-2).
Still another Dagestani in the 185-pound draw is undefeated Shamil Gamzatov (13-0), a one-time heavyweight who was his nation's kickboxing champion in addition to winning gold at the World Grappling Championships. He faces John Howard, who had two stints in the UFC, a total of 14 fights. Howard owns a win over Uriah Hall.
Rick Story (21-9), who takes on 12-1-1 Handesson Ferreira in a welterweight quarterfinal, fought 19 times in the UFC and owns wins over former champion Johny Hendricks as well as Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger.