PFL 2022: Breaking down the opening night for featherweights and heavyweights

After an opening night filled will exciting lightweight and light heavyweight fights, the PFL returns on Thursday to do it all again in two other weight classes (6 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPN+). The card will be headlined by reigning PFL heavyweight champion Bruno Cappelozza, who will be looking to keep his winning streak alive when he faces Stuart Austin. This card will also feature the featherweights, headlined by last year's runner-up, Brendan Loughnane, and an exciting matchup in former champ Lance Palmer vs. perennial contender Chris Wade.

Half of this week's competitors will make their first PFL season walks. Which ones will find the win column? ESPN sports betting analyst Ian Parker evaluates the PFL fight night.

Main event: Bruno Cappelozza vs. Stuart Austin

After putting together a two-fight win streak, Austin made his PFL debut against highly touted prospect Renan Ferreira last August. Unfortunately for Austin, it took Ferreira only 31 seconds to score a knockout victory. Now Austin will attempt to do what no PFL fighter has been able to accomplish to this point: derail the dominant run of Cappelozza.

As great of an underdog story as that would be, I don't see it happening. Cappelozza tore through the competition last year with his power and speed. In the finals, Cappelozza was almost finished by Ante Delija but overcame adversity and got the unanimous decision win. His streak should continue on Thursday, and I'd imagine it would come in the form of a knockout.

Prediction: Capellozza via TKO/KO.

Chris Wade vs. Lance Palmer

Palmer, a former two-time PFL featherweight champion, will be looking to get back on track against last year's semifinalist. In order to get the win, Palmer is going to have to rely on his wrestling and control Wade on the ground throughout the majority of the fight.

However, that's easier said than done. I think Palmer will struggle, as Wade is stylistically a poor matchup for him. Wade, who is a successful wrestler in his own right, has solid takedown defense, which he showed in last season's fight against Bubba Jenkins. I believe Wade's cardio and striking will get him a win over the former champ.

Prediction: Wade.

Renan Ferreira vs. Jamelle Jones

Jones burst onto the PFL scene with an upset TKO win over Klidson Abreu last June. Unfortunately for him, that success was short lived as he fell short in his second appearance with a TKO loss to the aforementioned Cappelozza.

Jones finds himself in a very tough matchup against Ferreira. In my opinion, Ferreira is the true wild card of this division. His size and athletic ability are unmatched. I expect Ferreira to keep Jones at a distance with his striking and not allow Jones to wrestle early. After several failed takedown attempts by Jones, look for Ferreira to put him away.

Prediction: Ferreira via TKO/KO.

Brendan Loughnane vs. Ryoji Kudo

Loughnane fell just short of being crowned featherweight champion in 2021, as he dropped a split decision to Movlid Khaybulaev in the championship fight. Against Kudo, look for Loughnane to utilize his elite striking. At some point, I expect Kudo to try to put Loughnane on his back, but Loughnane has shown tremendous takedown defense. That will force Kudo to keep fighting while standing.

This fight will be a showcase for Loughnane, as I fully expect him to dictate the action and get a strong win. If you're betting this card, consider Loughnane as part of a parlay.

Prediction: Loughnane.

Kyle Bochniak vs. Bubba Jenkins

After a strong showing in the regular season, Jenkins fell short to Wade last year. Now he wants to prove he has made the proper adjustments in order to become PFL featherweight champion.

Bochniak, an MMA veteran and PFL newcomer, will be a tough test for Jenkins on opening night. For those who aren't familiar with Bochniak, be prepared to be entertained as he always comes forward and never gets tired.

I like the underdog Bochniak here. We have seen Jenkins in too many situations where if he can't wrestle and hold his opponents down, he gets tired. Against Bochniak, that circumstance is a recipe for disaster.

Prediction: Bochniak.

Adam Keresh vs. Klidson Abreu

Abreu will be looking for his first win under the PFL banner when he takes on PFL Challenger series contract winner Keresh. To be honest, I'm shocked that Keresh is the underdog, but it can be due to a lack of name value.

After what I have seen from Keresh, and the lack of what I have seen from Abreu, I am all over Karesh in terms of betting value. Keresh is a very athletic heavyweight with great striking and, most importantly, has a great understanding for the flow of a fight. Look for Keresh to measure his opponent over the first couple of minutes before ending it with a knockout.

Prediction: Keresh.

Ante Delija vs. Matheus Scheffel

Delija was involved in one of the most exciting fights of the year across all MMA organizations in his epic battle against Cappelozza in last year's final. Look for Delija to utilize his striking to get the fight to the ground, where he will have a major advantage over Scheffel.

Delija's ground-and-pound will be too much for the newcomer, and I fully expect Delija to get the finish in his first fight of 2022.

Prediction: Delija by TKO/KO.

Denis Goltsov vs Cody Goodale

Coming off a submission win in November 2021, Goodale will be making his PFL debut and looking to pull off a huge upset over perennial contender Goltsov. Stylistically, this is a nightmare matchup for Goodale and far from an ideal opponent for his debut.

Goltsov, who is coming off a loss to finalist Delija, will be looking to use his sambo background to get himself back in the win column. I expect Goltsov to play this fight safe and get the fight to the floor, where he should dominate and get the early finish.

Prediction: Goltsov by TKO/KO.