Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight submission aces Joe Lauzon and Marcin Held will collide this Sunday (Jan. 15, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 103 inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
A bit of bad luck prevented Lauzon from putting together consecutive wins for the first time in several years, but he’s still looked good in recent performances. This is a classic match up for the veteran, as Lauzon will determine whether or not Held is truly UFC-ready. Held may have a ton of talent, but his Octagon debut was incredibly frustrating. He’ll have to avoid a repeat performance against Lauzon, as a defeat here could send the 24-year-old to the chopping block.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Diego Sanchez (UFC 200), Michael Chiesa (UFC Fight Night 50), Jamie Varner (UFC on FOX 4), Melvin Guillard (UFC 136)
Key Losses: Jim Miller (UFC on FOX 21, UFC 155), Evan Dunham (The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale), Al Iaquinta (UFC 183)
Keys to Victory: Lauzon is one of the sneakiest grapplers around, as the veteran has finished 18 of his opponents via tapout. He also packs some solid boxing with deceptive power, and Lauzon has also shored up the holes in his conditioning over the years.
In terms of skill, Lauzon should have some big advantages here. Both men are great grapplers, but Lauzon’s game is more functional for mixed martial arts (MMA). Aside from that, Lauzon has the sharper boxing and more proven wrestling.
In this bout, Lauzon should bring the fight to Held early. He definitely packs the heavier punch, and Held is still not entirely comfortable on his feet.
A knockout isn’t impossible, but it’s more likely that Held falls on bad habits and pulls guard or chases a leg lock. Lauzon is far too experienced to get tripped up in such things if he’s able to see them coming, meaning he’ll be able to take top position without really having to work for it.
From there, Lauzon can drop hammers and look for submissions of his own.
Key Wins: Patricky Freire (Bellator 126), Alexander Sarnavskiy (Bellator 136), Dave Jansen (Bellator 155)
Key Losses: Will Brooks (Bellator 145), Diego Sanchez (UFC Fight Night 98)
Keys to Victory: Held is an exceptional grappler with a great series of leg lock attacks. He’s also a capable wrestler and striker, and the Polish prospect generally has all the skills he needs to find some success inside the Octagon.
In Held’s debut, he faced Diego Sanchez, who is in a rather similar position to Lauzon in terms of being a crafty, but flawed, veteran. Held picked him apart for a round, but then got a little tired, reverted to his leg lock game, and ate elbows to a decision loss.
It’s time to see if Held learned anything from that night.
Simply put, if Held tries to roll into leg locks and go straight to his jiu-jitsu, it’s almost certainly not going to work for him. There’s also a chance that he finds the hold and can finish, but it’s far more likely that he loses another bout from the bottom.
Instead, Held needs to take advantage of his youth and athleticism advantage. He showed some nice counter punches and movement in his last bout, enough to give Lauzon some trouble. If he can land some good shots and actually set up takedowns. Held definitely has the potential to out-work Lauzon.
Bottom Line: It’s a classic battle of veteran and prospect in the sport’s deepest division.
Regardless of Lauzon’s should-be win streak, his position inside the division is pretty set. He’s not a top 15 athlete at this point in his career, but he’s also not too far off from those ranks. Unless his abilities drastically grow or diminish, that position isn’t likely to change in the near future.
Win or lose, Lauzon is an exciting and valuable 155-pound fighter.
This bout holds a great deal more significance to Held. Normally, a loss to someone like Sanchez could be seen as a learning experience for most 24-year-old fighters, but Held has damn near 30 professional fights. He should be through having to learn basic lessons and ready to contend with the best in the world.
This may be make-or-break for Held. If he wins, it’s a quality victory over a name opponent and could set him up with another fighter trying to break into the rankings. If not, Held may just have to work his way back to the Octagon.
At UFC Fight Night 103, Joe Lauzon and Marcin Held will square off in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?