What’s the story?
In the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 103- Rodriguez vs Penn that took place in Phoenix, Arizona, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) veteran Joe Lauzon did battle with Bellator import Marcin Held for three rounds. Lauzon cracked Held with several clean strikes throughout the course of the fight, particularly, a right hand in Round 1 and a clean left hand in Round 3.
However, Held, on his part, had his own moments in the fight, especially on the mat. Lauzon is one of the most well-rounded Lightweight (LW/155 pound) fighters on the UFC roster, using his grappling and striking in equal measure.
However, his Polish opponent proved to be a tough customer in the grappling exchanges, as Held simply muscled Lauzon to the mat multiple times. Lauzon, himself, is no slouch on the ground. With several high level submission wins on his record, Lauzon is a threat to anyone on the mat.
However, Held outclassed him on the mat, and although, Lauzon got in a few good punches on him, Held seemed to be cruising to a decision victory. Nevertheless, the judges’ scorecards revealed a split-decision win for Joe Lauzon, and being the gentleman that he is, Lauzon disagreed with this decision after the fight.
In case you didn’t know:
Joe Lauzon (27-12) is a longtime UFC veteran, who has gone through several peaks and valleys in his Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) career. On the other hand, ‘The Polish Prodigy’ Marcin Held (22-5) was a top LW contender in Bellator MMA. Since coming over to the UFC, Held has an unimpressive 0-2 record, inclusive of this fight with Lauzon. However, irrespective of Held’s losing record in the UFC, he is a legitimate talent and up-and-coming prospect in the UFC LW division.
The heart of the matter:
Lauzon caught Held with a few clean shots throughout the course of their three round fight. The first big moment in the fight was when Lauzon caught Held with a big right hand over the top that had Held shook. Held shot in for a takedown but Lauzon sprawled and countered Held’s takedown attempt with a series of elbows to the side of Held’s head. Lauzon then targeted Held’s arm, however, he backed off due to Held’s sheer strength as well as proficiency on the ground. Midway through the opening round, Held took Lauzon down. While Held adavnced to side control, Lauzon, gradually, used that as an opening to wall-walk and get back to his feet. Held fumbled on a spinning backfist attempt and ended the round on his back, getting tagged by a big right hand from Lauzon.
Held shot in for a takedown to start Round 2 and defended a guillotine attempt by Lauzon. Held then went on to take Lauzon’s back, however, Lauzon was able to scramble and get back on his feet. Lauzon scored a double leg takedown of his own and held Marcin Held down for a brief period of time. Held then took Lauzon down after a brief exchange on the feet, and then defended an armbar attempt from Lauzon. Held ended the round in top position over Lauzon.
The 3rd round began with Lauzon cracking Held with a big left hand, but Held went on to reverse Lauzon against the cage. Lauzon broke free and took the centre of the Octagon. Held went on to score another takedown and although, Held didn’t do much damage from the top position, he was able to clock enough time of top control on Lauzon. On the contrary, Lauzon seemed to be visibly struggling to keep Held down, whenever he’d score a takedown of his own. Held was able to out-power Lauzon to the ground on several occasions throughout the fight. Held also impressed with his last minute takedown and top control, to end the fight in a dominant position.
Now, inspite of this being a close fight, Held did more than enough to sway the judges in his favour, except the fact that the judges that mattered the most, the ones cage-side in Phoenix didn’t seem too impressed with Held. Lauzon was, ultimately, awarded the split decision victory (27-30, 29-28, 29-28). And although, most fighters would be happy to win a decision even if they feel they didn’t deserve it, Lauzon isn’t one of them. Lauzon confessed that his Polish opponent was the better fighter on that night and went on to declare his disagreement with the judges’ decision.
For now, Lauzon and Held are still stuck in the mid-tier of the UFC LW division. The 155 pound division is the most talent-stacked division in the UFC and almost all fighters in the top 20 provide incredibly fun matchups for Lauzon and Held. Lauzon seems to have stagnated a bit while Held seems to be constantly evolving his overall MMA game. For now, fighters like Paul Felder and Ross Pearson seem to be the most likely matchups for Lauzon and Held.
Moving forward, Ross Pearson vs Joe Lauzon seems to be a great matchup for the two fighters. The built-in storyline behind this matchup makes it all the more compelling; the two hard-nosed UFC veterans slugging it out in the Octagon has all the potential of proving to be a barnburner of a fight. On the other hand, Marcin Held vs Paul Felder seems like yet another fun matchup. Felder loves a standup fight and Held would love to turn this into a grappling contest. The clash of styles in this matchup makes this fight incredibly compelling.
Regardless of what happens moving forward, Lauzon has solidified his position in the UFC LW division as a tough out for anyone. Held, on the other hand, is yet to secure a victory inside the Octagon. However, Held has legitimate grappling skills. In fact, his grappling skills are so good that he can give the top five UFC LWs a run for their money on the mat. However, Held’s striking still has ways to go. He has decent movement and mechanisms, however, the elite at LW could legitimately destroy Held on the feet. Held mustn’t fall into the trap of being over-reliant on his grappling. Before the UFC matchmakers throw Held into the deep waters of the UFC LW division, I would love to see Held test his striking against ‘The Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder. Now, the biggest reason behind this potential matchup favoring Held is that, Felder has a tendency to freeze up against pressure-based grapplers like Held. And although, Felder has better striking, Muay Thai in particular, than Held, Held’s takedown threat will make Felder incredibly gun-shy to utilize his full arsenal of Muay Thai strikes. This, in turn, will help Held get in a few rounds against a somewhat threatening striker and thus, the experience that’ll help propel him to the next level in his UFC career.
Lauzon is a true gentleman, in a sport filled with aggressive personalities. The very fact that he admitted that his opponent was better than him in their fight, inspite of the fact that the judges scored it for him, is admirable. Lauzon is an MMA veteran and in this case, his self-criticism is somewhat justified. Now, although Lauzon has decent striking, it’s his vaunted grappling skills that help turn fights in his favour. However, Lauzon made some critical errors in this fight against Held and, eventually, gave up dominant positions to his opponent. He had Held hurt with the elbows to the side of the head, however, backed off due to Held’s pure strength and good wrestling acumen. Unfortunately, Lauzon’s best days may have passed him by, but in 2017, there are still several fun matchups for Lauzon, on the horizon; especially in the lower rung of the top 20 in the LW division.
Joe Lauzon vs Marcin Held may not have provided Lawler vs Condit levels of entertainment, however, it was a decent fight in a deep division, and showcased how far our sport of MMA has come from the days of Tank Abott and Royce Gracie. If UFC Fight Night 103, is a sign of things to come, get ready for a crazy year of MMA in 2017.Published 16 Jan 2017, 20:06 IST