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This Thursday live from the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston, Maine, Bellator MMA's breakout 8th Season on Spike continues with a long-awaited Lightweight Championship Tournament Final main event as American all-rounder Dave Jansen meets Polish submission ace Marcin Held with a guaranteed title shot on the line.
|Jansen vs. Held Preview|
Unbeaten in five fights since joining Bellator, former University of Oregon wrestler Dave Jansen makes his first Championship Final appearance in a previously-postponed conclusion to the Bellator Season 7 Lightweight Tournament. Jansen is a veteran of the rugged Northwestern fight scene with extensive experience against international opposition. Though he trained exclusively in wrestling before starting his MMA career, "The Fugitive" is dangerous in all areas and excels at breaking opponents down by transitioning freely between disciplines at a high pace.
On his feet Jansen is a capable kickboxer, utilizing fast footwork, jabs and low kicks to both sides of the lead leg to maintain distance and keep opponents on the outside. On the attack he prefers to put his power behind straight punches, stepping in with right crosses or uppercuts, often initiating exchanges with a front kick quickly followed by a punch. His best asset standing is probably his speedy lateral movement that enables him to sneak punches around his opposition's hands or seamlessly move in for takedowns.
Jansen's high pace is especially withering on the ground. When he gets top control, he'll keep it with tight positioning plus a steady stream of punches and elbows to tenderize opponents, passing to better positions when they squirm to avoid the barrage. Once in a dominant position, he's even more dangerous; he has the veteran savvy to do things like feigning one submission attempt to open his opponent up for another one when they try to counter it. Jansen is an efficient finisher, with all 10 of his submission victories coming via a form of choke. Possessing exceptional conditioning to back it all up, it's no surprise that he's steadily worked his way up to his first major championship fight. He's the kind of well-rounded talent that can still prevail in the end even if an opponent may have him outclassed in one particular area, which could be a key consideration in this matchup.
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In a bizarre turn of events, Polish Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu phenom Marcin Held found himself on the outside looking in (literally) on December 14th of last year when the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana refused his entry to the Bellator event he was scheduled to headline, scuttling the 2012 lightweight finale. Now 21, Held can celebrate reaching the legal drinking age by becoming the youngest Tournament Champion in Bellator MMA history if he gets past Dave Jansen in Lewiston this Thursday.
Also riding a five-fight winning streak, Marcin is the latest patron saint for one of the oldest, most dangerous and mercurial MMA brotherhoods: The Order Of the Leglock Masters. These sadomasochistic savants reject popular thinking when it comes to grappling offense and defense, instead focusing all efforts toward the noble goal of forcibly making their opponent's foot point in the wrong direction. Like many of his brethren, Held compensates for his limited wrestling credentials by attacking with an offbeat arsenal of leglock variations from unexpected angles.
Despite knowing all this, opponents have a tough time preventing him from manhandling their knee ligaments like a psychotic crocodile hunter. Leglock Masters are a crafty bunch, and Held is no exception. In the clinch he will look to step inside past his opponent's near leg, at which point most fighters would try for a hip throw. Knowing this, Marcin will feint the throw but then thread his legs together instead, rolling through to bring the fight to the floor. If that doesn't work, he will deploy traditional foot locker moves like pulling guard or even sliding under an opponent baseball-style.
Leglocks are inherently dangerous because of their scarcity. Many who end up submitting to them are unprepared to defend leg attacks because they're wary of the injury risk associated with training to properly fight them off. Others are unfamiliar to their ways because the techniques are simply banned from their preferred form of martial arts. Held is especially threatening because he is almost equally good with toe holds, knee bars or heel hooks, and this expertise empowers him to quickly transition from one attack to another rather than giving opportunity for escape.
All of this isn't to say that Marcin is one-dimensional. Despite lacking the brute strength to slam opponents around at will, he's an accomplished amateur grappler with a solid wrestling shot and a full compliment of standard choke and armlock attacks. When fighting at distance he prefers a taekwondo-like, side-facing stance that enables him to probe with jabs, lead left hooks and kicks from his lead leg. From this stance he can block incoming strikes with his left shoulder or quickly counter with a spinning back fist or kick.
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The downside of fishing for a heel hook is pretty simple: You can't defend your face very well with both hands tied up going for one. Though he is good at tucking his head under his own body to mitigate the risk, Held will be vulnerable if Jansen can keep his legs clear and create distance to rain down with his ground and pound from top position. Considering how good Marcin is at entangling his opponents and his relative lack of knockout power, Dave is probably better off fighting from the outside. From there he can step in with his kicks or uppercuts, taking advantage of Held's tendency to stand flat footed and lean to the right while shoulder-blocking.
For Marcin, the task is to submit a man who has never been finished in his career. It is conceivable that he could take advantage of Jansen's habit of reaching with one strike at a time and land a big counter, but his track record doesn't favor it. If Held is to claim the Tourament Championship and earn his rematch with Lightweight World Champion Michael Chandler, he'll likely have to out-grapple a fellow submission specialist who is arguably as dangerous as the title holder.
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