In a rematch of one of the most shocking upsets of the 2021 PFL season, 2 time PFL World Champion Natan Schulte (21-5-1) takes on Marcin Held (27-8) in a lightweight playoff elimination bout. Interestingly, Schulte comes in as a slight -185 favorite despite losing the fight when these 2 met last season. Held replaces the injured Don Madge and as such this will be his only chance to earn points and a playoff spot this season. Schulte also finds himself with his back against the wall having dropped a split decision to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in his first bout of the season.
After a 10 fight unbeaten streak spanning 4 years, Schulte found himself in an unfamiliar position last year, missing the playoffs for the first time in his PFL career. He’s gone 1-1 since then with 2 split decisions and will look to get back to his championship form tonight. A loss will see Schulte miss the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year, and he’ll likely need an early finish to stay alive in a crowded lightweight division.
Having fought in the UFC, Bellator, ACA, and PFL, Marcin Held has fought elite competition all over the world. At one point the youngest jiu-jitsu black belt in Poland at the age of 21, Held’s pro MMA career dates all the way back to 2008. He looks to make the most of this replacement opportunity tonight and prove that last year’s win was no fluke.
Schulte opens the fight with a low kick and seems much more aggressive in the first 30 seconds than he did in the first meeting between these 2 last year. Schulte lands a combo that gets Held backing up and the 2 exchange blows along the cage.
Held goes for the Imanari roll trying to attack Schulte’s leg and Schulte is able to clear himself of danger. They reset and Schulte lands a big right hand, these 2 are pushing quite a pace early with over 60 attempted strikes between them through 2 minutes.
Held lands a nice right hand of his own that seems to garner Schulte’s respect and the fight is getting a little less frantic as both men settle in halfway through the 1st.
Schulte is controlling the center of the SmartCage but Held is doing a good job keeping him at bay with the jab and occasional spinning attack. Schulte however just keeps coming forward and seems intent to hunt the finish he needs to keep his playoff hopes alive.
Another Imanari roll as Held attacks the leg but again Schulte is able to escape danger. Both men are landing good strikes with Held edging out the volume but Schulte landing the slightly bigger shots so far. Schulte briefly stuns Held with a left hook but he’s right back to it.
As the round winds down, Schulte continues attacking the lead leg of Held. As the 10-second clapper sounds, Schulte lands yet another calf kick that draws a reaction from Held. Those kicks will really add up and hinder Held’s ability to move and attack as the fight goes on.
Held’s leg is clearly compromised as we start the 2nd round. 1 minute in and the output is down from Schulte after throwing almost 75 strikes in the 1st. Held shoots and briefly gets the takedown but Schulte is able to quickly work back to his feet and reset.
Schulte is loading up on everything at this point and fatigue seems to be starting to play a factor, though he has looked much better than he did in the first fight between these men last season.
Schulte is probing with kicks but throwing a lot of single strikes, he would do well to follow up these lead kicks with some punches. Schulte is doing a great job with his entrances and exits however, getting in, landing, and getting out of danger before Held can return fire.
With 90 seconds to go, Schulte lands another big right hand that draws a slight reaction from Held who quickly recovers and returns fire, landing a right hand of his own. Schulte has swelled to -500 on the live betting odds as he seemingly starts to pull away in this fight.
Schulte continues leading the dance as the round comes to an end and Held will likely need a finish here.
Both men come out for the final round looking a bit fresher and Held is showing the urgency required of a fighter who is likely down 2 rounds.
Despite his compromised lead leg, Held has done a very good job moving laterally on the outside and making Schulte chase him down, though Schulte is landing when he’s able to enter the pocket.
Held lands a nice lead hook with a cross behind it and Schulte returns fire instantly in what has become a war of attrition. Halfway through the round the pace is once again slowing down but both fighters are still landing. Interestingly, Held has actually outstruck Schulte to this point though the power shots have all come from Schulte.
With 2 minutes remaining, Held once again ups the urgency and attempts a wheel kick before trying to roll for a leg once again. Held is having his most successful round yet but it may simply be too little too late at this point.
Held changes levels but Schulte stuffs the attempt and lands a hook on the break for his troubles. As the round winds down, Schulte is still chasing the finish and throwing bombs! We end the fight with a big flurry that sees both men land shots and we will see the judges scorecards for the first time tonight.
Natan Schulte avenges last year’s loss with a win tonight, however, he will still need some help to make the playoffs as he now finds himself in 3rd place with 3 points and a good number of regular-season lightweight bouts still remaining.
Natan Schulte def. Marcin Held via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)