Marcin Held (left) submitted Bojan Kosednar: Piotr Pedziszewski/Sherdog.com
DABROWA GORNICZA, Poland -- Marcin Held promised to test his standup, but it was the 18-year-old Polish prodigy’s ground game which earned him a victory over Bojan Kosednar at the inaugural Infinite Fighting Federation show in Dabrowa Gornicza, Poland, on Friday.
Held made good on his promise by standing throughout round one, but was not impressed by his own performance.
"I think there wasn't enough time to prepare for a southpaw," said Held, who was only confirmed as fighting Kosednar four days prior to the event. "I thought the first round would go better."
Switching up the gameplan in round two, Held reverted to his strong suit: grappling. Kosednar was able to stuff a couple shots, but generally looked to be giving up strength to his opponent. Held did succeed on a double leg, which got the fight to the ground. Although it was not the first time the fight had hit the canvas, Held dazzled once there, passing guard and quickly getting into position for the fight-ending kneebar, which came at 3:42 of the second period.
"The next few days might be a turning point in my career," commented Held after the fight, alluding to recent offers he’s received from stateside promotions.
The most exciting bout of IFF’s “Poland vs. Germany”-themed undercard ended in controversy. For 14 minutes, decorated freestyle wrestling convert Yoel Romero Palacio had his way with Michal Fijalka. The Cuban hit multiple ankle taps and dumped the Pole to the ground with several other takedowns, where Romero swarmed with hammerfists.
Romero also proved far too fast on the feet for Fijalka, holding his hands nonchalantly low and taunting Fijalka throughout the fight. Each time Romero got the Pole in a seemingly dangerous position, “Sztanga” would slip underneath the ropes, and the fight would be stopped for repositioning -- a tactic which, by the third round, was greeted with boos from the crowd.
With 55 seconds left in the fight, a bloodied Fijalka was on all fours when Palacio launched a knee. The referee stepped in, thinking the strike had hit Fijalka in the head. When Fijalka was unable to continue, the arena filled with boos in anticipation of a disqualification finish. Under the circumstances, and amidst volatile protests from both camps, officials decided that the knee had connected to the body and was therefore legal, declaring the fight a TKO victory for Romero.
"I didn't think the knee was to his head," said Palacio. "I thought it hit the body. A real athlete has to know when he wins and when loses."
"The rules of MMA are there to stick to," disagreed Fijalka’s coach, Piotr Baginski. "Such a victory pleases no one, and I actually pressed for the fight to be called a no contest.”
"Ultimately, the judges decided who won, and that's that, even if I, personally, might disagree with it," conceded the popular "Bagi.”
"All the people that saw me fight at the [FILA Wrestling World Championships] know that I'm very mentally strong and I get what I want,” said Palacio. “I want to be a world champion, and I won't quit until I become one.”
The odds-on favorite to become Poland's 14th Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Maciej Polok, threw actual strikes for the first time in his fight, something that he and MMA fans had joked about. However, it was only 40 seconds before Polok got the takedown on Sebastian Nowak. From there, it was elementary, as Polok secured back control and a rear-naked choke in twenty seconds for the tapout win.
"I heard that [the strike] didn't connect," laughed Polok of his striking exploits. "I didn't have any expectation for my stand-up, because I don't really train it."
The most crowd-pleasing fight was a heavyweight brawl between Karol Celinski and undefeated Janosch Stefan. Celinski immediately got the better of the German at range, his only problems coming from sparse knees in the clinch, which the Arrachion MMA fighter answered with uppercuts. This pattern continued, with Stefan occasionally scoring takedowns and momentarily getting the better of Celinski on the ground.
The crowd was roaring by the third round, but both fighters were gasping for air. Stefan, with a busted nose and cut-up face, was worse for the wear and finally succumbed to an exhaustion-fueled rear-naked choke at 2:16 of the last frame. The win was Poland's third, clinching victory in the "match" against Germany, which ultimately ended 3-2.
Gregor Herb def. Mateusz Teodorczuk -- Submission (Armbar) 4:31, R1
Kerim Abzailov def. Steve Mensing -- Submission (Kneebar) 2:18, R1
Andrzej Kumor def. Piotr Lesniak -- TKO (Punches) 4:00, R1
Wojciech Lech def. Mariusz Pioskowik -- Submission (Heel Hook) 1:38, R1
Bartlomiej Kurczewski def. Marcin Konieczny -- Decision (Majority)
Alan Langer def. Arkadiusz Zaba -- Submission (Achilles Lock), 3:02, R1