LAS VEGAS -- The first event of PFL's 2023 regular season sure looked a lot similar to 2022 as far as Brendan Loughnane and Rob Wilkinson are concerned.
Loughnane (27-4) and Wilkinson (18-2) each won PFL titles in 2022, at featherweight and light heavyweight, respectively. On Saturday, they kicked off their quests to repeat with signature victories over a pair of PFL free agent acquisitions. Loughnane defeated Marlon Moraes via second-round TKO, and Wilkinson dispatched Thiago Santos via decision.
"Violence, I wanted violence," Loughnane said after finishing Moraes in the main event of PFL 1 inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels. "I was sat in the back [during the event] falling asleep, thinking, 'What the f--- is going on [with fights going the distance]?' I thought I had to save the day, and I always do."
Wilkinson, of Australia, failed to record a finish against Santos, but he still turned in a strong three-round performance against the former UFC title challenger. Wilkinson's championship run of 2022 looked easy at times, as he finished all four of the opponents he faced. Saturday might have been his most impressive win, however, considering whom it came against.
According to the PFL's regular-season scoring structure, Loughnane picked up five points for his second-round finish and now starts the year atop the featherweight leaderboard. Bubba Jenkins (20-6) picked up a big decision win against rival Chris Wade to score three points, as did 2021 PFL champion Movlid Khaybulaev (20-0-1) with a decision win over Ryoji Kudo.
Wilkinson's three points place him in fourth place, behind Ty Flores (12-4), Joshua Silveira (10-1) and Marthin Hamlet (11-4). Hamlet and Silveira each scored six points with impressive first-round finishes.
The PFL's regular season continues Friday with the women's featherweight and heavyweight divisions.