The first night of the PFL’s 2023 Challenger Series produced three decision verdicts and one submission finish, but those tasked with awarding a PFL contract winner to the best performer of the night were split in their assessment of who should get the opportunity in the PFL’s 2023 welterweight season.

The night showcased the 170-pound division, with Georgia’s Itso Babulaidze, plus Americans Thad Jean, Zack Juusola and Kendly St. Louis all picking up victories, with the latter doing so on short notice after stepping in to replace Mostafa Rashed Neda.

And it was St. Louis who claimed the only finish of the night as he locked up a rear-naked choke to finish Nick Alley in the second round in the first bout of the night. That performance earned St. Louis the fan vote on the night.

However, despite being the only man to claim an inside-the-distance victory, the panel of Woodley, Lewis and Khalifa all selected Jean as the night’s standout performer after his dominant decision win over the previously undefeated Eric Alequin.

It meant that there was a tie that needed breaking, and PFL president Ray Sefo was called upon to decide which of the two men would be awarded a PFL contract.

Sefo selected Jean, with the undefeated fighter known as “The Silverback” celebrating winning a PFL deal.

PFL Challenger Series – Week 1: Official results

  • Itso Babulaidze def. Lucas Barbosa via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
  • Thad Jean def. Eric Alequin via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – Jean earns PFL contract
  • Zach Juusola def. Jozef Wittner via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Kendly St. Louis def. Nick Alley via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:17