PFL expert picks and best bets: Can Loughnane make another playoff run?

Brendan Loughnane faces Pedro Carvalho in the co-main event at 2024 PFL Regular Season: Welterweights and Featherweights. Cooper Neill / PFL

The two remaining PFL weight classes get their first action of this season at 2024 PFL Regular Season: Welterweights and Featherweights at Wintrust Arena in Chicago on Friday night (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+, with prelims at 7 p.m. on ESPN+).

In the main event, Andrey Koreshkov makes his PFL debut against undefeated PFL veteran Magomed Umalatov. Koreshkov enters the bout on a five-fight win streak. He beat Lorenz Larkin by split decision in his last fight in 2023. Umalatov, though undefeated, has never competed for a PFL championship.

In the co-main event, Brendan Loughnane starts his path back to the PFL playoffs after missing them for the first time in his PFL career last season. In his first fight of the season, takes on Bellator veteran Pedro Carvalho. Loughnane Lougnane won the PFL featherweight title in 2022.

Here are my thoughts and analysis on the main event and other intriguing bets on the card.

Magomed Umalatov makes quick work of Dilano Taylor

Magomed Umalatov kicks off the PFL 3 card and finishes Dilano Taylor with a slew of punches.

Welterweight: Andrey Koreshkov vs. Magomed Umalatov

Umalatov to win. Umalatov was on his way to the semifinals last year when unfortunate visa issues prevented him from making a run at the title and $1 million prize. His first-round matchup against Bellator veteran Koreshkov should be a fun striking fest for as long as it lasts. Both men are devastating strikers, but the biggest difference here will be Umalatov's wrestling, if he chooses to do so. I expected him to be a much bigger favorite in this fight than the lines suggest. As long as he doesn't gas out, Umalatov will get it done.

Feattherweight: Brendan Loughnane vs. Pedro Carvalho

Parker: Loughnane to win inside the distance. Loughnane had the worst luck possible in his final regular-season fight of 2023. All he had to do was beat Jesus Pinedo, or not get finished in the first two minutes of the fight. However, at 1:34 in the first round, Pinedo caught Loughnane with a knee to get the TKO, ending Loughnane's hope of winning back-to-back seasons.

Loughnane returns against Bellator veteran Carvalho, on a two-fight losing streak. Most recently, Carvalho was knocked out by Aaron Pico, and now he is taking on another talented striker in Loughnane. Loughnane is projected to be a heavy favorite, so look for him to win inside the distance or make him a leg of your parlay.

Welterweight: Goiti Yamauchi vs. Neiman Gracie

Gracie to win. I am all over Gracie as an underdog here. I have no clue how he isn't the favorite, as he is the better fighter anywhere the fight may go. Look for Gracie to use his striking to set up his world-class jiu-jitsu and get the win. Also, Yamauchi's health is worth monitoring. He is coming off a nasty leg injury suffered against Michael "Venom" Page last year.

Featherweight: Bubba Jenkins vs. Kai Kamaka III

Jenkins to win. Is this the year Jenkins finally claims his first PFL title? The first step is to get past the durable Kamaka. Kamaka and Jenkins are pretty even on the feet, however Jenkins has the advantage on the mat. Look for Jenkins to come out of the gate quickly with his boxing to set up his wrestling. Once the fight gets to the floor, he will be in control.