Stardom was once foretold for Marcin Held, and he now appears poised to finally meet those great expectations.
The 29-year-old Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator MMA veteran will make his second appearance under the Professional Fighters League banner when he tackles Olivier Aubin-Mercier in a PFL 4 lightweight showdown on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Held enters the cage with the wind of a five-fight winning streak in his sails. He last competed at PFL 1 on April 23, when he laid claim to a three-round unanimous decision over two-time defending Professional Fighters League lightweight champion Natan Schulte.
Ahead of Held’s forthcoming battle with Aubin-Mercier, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:
Superb submission defense and opportunistic ground-and-pound spurred Jansen to a unanimous decision over Held in the Bellator MMA Season 7 lightweight tournament final atop Bellator 93 on March 21, 2013. All three cageside judges arrived at the same verdict: 29-28 for Jansen, who secured a $100,000 payday at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine, and with it a shot at the organization’s lightweight crown. The Sports Lab representative turned the tide in his favor in the second round, where he mounted Held and made the Polish grappling savant pay for his repeated leg lock attempts. Jansen met his advances with punches, elbows and hammerfists, all while maintaining top position. By the time Round 3 arrived, Held was spent. Jansen popped him with leg kicks and punching combinations, forcing the weary 21-year-old to pull guard in desperation. Held again turned to his trusted submissions, first fishing for an inverted heel hook and later for an ankle lock. Neither was successful, and Jansen resumed his assault from the top while chewing the remaining time off the clock. Held exacted a measure of revenge some three years later when he took a unanimous decision from “The Fugitive” in their Bellator 155 rematch.
A relentless and supremely conditioned Held cruised to a unanimous verdict over Freire in the Bellator MMA Season 10 lightweight tournament final at Bellator 126 on Sept. 26, 2014. All three cageside judges scored it for Held: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-26. Freire could not keep the Polish grappler at bay before a crowd of 6,300 at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix. After a competitive first five minutes, Held found another gear. He executed repeated takedowns, threatened with various submissions and carved up the Brazilian with slashing elbows from the top. The second and third rounds were decidedly one-sided, and Held tied a bow on his victory by achieving full mount with a little more than two minutes remaining in the fight. By then, Freire was a beaten man and his counterpart had cemented himself as one of Bellator’s premier lightweights.
American Top Team’s Brooks retained the Bellator MMA lightweight championship with a unanimous decision over Held in the Bellator 145 co-main event on Nov. 6, 2015 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. All three cageside judges scored it for Brooks: 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. Held worked his way to a tight kneebar in the first round but could not draw out the desired submission, and he became less and less of a threat as time passed. Brooks struck for takedowns in all five rounds and twice achieved full mount on the Polish submission specialist. He fed Held a steady diet of short punches, elbows and forearm strikes from above, eventually opening a small cut near the leg lock aficionado’s right eye. To his credit, the challenger never went away. Brooks cleared his last hurdle in the fourth round, where he freed himself from a toe hold and resumed his attack from top position.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 semifinalist took a contentious split decision from Held in the UFC Fight Night 103 co-headliner on Jan. 15, 2017 at the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix. Judges Jeff Mullen and Marcos Rosales struck 29-28 scorecards for Lauzon, while Derek Cleary saw it 30-27 for Held. Afterward, Lauzon shook his head at the decision and affirmed his belief that his opponent deserved the nod. He put Held in real danger early in the first round, where he countered a bid for a takedown with a burst of devastating clinch elbows to the side of the head. The Pole bailed on the attempt, recovered from the barrage and reset himself on the feet. He later secured a takedown, passed to side control and started to chip away at Lauzon with positional dominance and ground-and-pound. Over the second and third rounds, Held ducked in repeatedly for takedowns, chewed up clock and freed himself from an armbar. He rose to his feet with a smile on his face when the final horn sounded, thinking he won a clear-cut decision. The scorecards told a different story.
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