November 4, 2016

UFC Fight Night 98: Welcome Marcin Held To The Octagon

By Adam Martin

One of the top fighters outside the UFC will finally make his long-awaited Octagon debut this weekend when Marcin Held fights Diego Sanchez at UFC Fight Night 98, which takes place Saturday night at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Mexico. Held, who is only 24 years old, already has a wealth of pro MMA experience, having gone 22-4 overall in his young career, including an impressive 11-3 record in Bellator, where he was a two-time tournament finalist, winning the season 10 lightweight tournament.
Held has picked up wins over the likes of Dave Jansen, Alexander Sarnavskiy, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, Derek Anderson, Phillipe Nover, and Rich Clementi, with his three losses coming to elite fighters in Michael Chandler and Will Brooks, plus a disputed decision defeat to Jansen which he later avenged. In short, Held was masterful in Bellator, especially considering he came into the promotion as a 19-year-old prospect.

Held, who is among the new wave of Polish fighters taking over the sport, started his career as a 16-year-old on the regional circuit in Poland, where he won 10 of his first 11 fights, only losing to current UFC lightweight Lukasz Sajewski. Even as a teenager fighting lower-level opposition, one could see Held’s potential in the sport, as eight of those 10 early-career wins came via stoppage. That caught the eye of Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan, who signed Held to a contract to bring him to Bellator, where he went on to make his name as one of the top young lightweights in the sport.

In Bellator, Held became known for his ability to take fights to the ground and secure high-level, skilled submissions over his opponent. In his career, 12 of Held’s 22 career victories have come via submission, including six subs alone in Bellator. Held is a lower-limb specialist in particular, as he’s captured six career subs via heel hook/kneebar/toehold, but he’s also adept at achieving the rear-naked choke and armbar. As far as I’m concerned, Held is one of the best submission artists in the sport, and it’s nice to see him finally get to the UFC where more fans will see him do his work.

As stated, Held is just 24, so he’s constantly improving, and one area of his game that’s always getting better is his standup. He only has four knockout wins on his resume, but the one big knockout that he did achieve recently was a brutal KO victory in Bellator over Ryan Healy, Pat Healy’s brother. Ryan is known for having an iron chin, and the fact that Held was able to put him out shows Held does indeed have knockout power. As he keeps moving forward in his MMA career, he will unlock that power and become even more dangerous.

For his UFC debut, the matchmakers have matched him up with Sanchez, one of the sport’s longest-serving veterans. On one hand, it’s not an easy fight for Held, as Sanchez is known for his durability, cardio, and heart, but on the other hand, it’s a compliment to Held that Joe Silva and Sean Shelby believe he’s ready for an opponent with the experience that Sanchez has. Not surprisingly considering Sanchez’ decline, Held is a big favorite to win this fight, but if you ask Held himself, this isn’t an easy fight at all, and it’s the perfect way to see just where he stacks up against UFC competition.

Held is an awesome fighter who has been consistently underrated by MMA fans, and I was shocked when Bellator released him. But Bellator’s loss is the UFC’s gain, as Held will improve the depth of the UFC’s lightweight division and, who knows, maybe become a top-15 fighter. He certainly has the potential to do so, now it’s up to him to do it.

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