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.
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.
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.