Two-time PFL champion Natan Schulte needs to make a statement Friday at PFL 4 to increase his chances for a third belt at the playoffs, and counts on the fact he knows a thing or two about his opponent Marcin Held.
Schulte lost a decision to Held in April 2021, which ultimately hurt his chances of advancing to that year’s playoffs. He once again has his back against the wall following a split decision setback versus Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
Entering the first rematch of his MMA career in Atlanta, Schulte believes he has an advantage this time around.
“One of the [differences] is that I know how he acts in the cage,” Schulte said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “He did a camp [at American Top Team] once, I think he only stayed there for two months and I remember we trained together, we sparred, and that gives me confidence because I remember how we did in training and in the fight.
“My last fight [with Aubin-Mercier] gives me plenty of confidence as well because, in my opinion, I won that fight, and I’ll be even better in this fight.”
Held also lost his past bout to Aubin-Mercier, an unanimous decision 12 months ago, and Schulte vows to bring in a different game plan this time around.
“He’s a very tough opponent,” Schulte said, “and last time I saw how much he has evolved in his boxing, but I’ll impose my striking and grappling, things I didn’t use last time. Even though he’s a good opponent with good jiu-jitsu, I’ll bet on my grappling and be more aggressive now.”
“I won’t wait too long before I start fighting,” he continued. “He came out strong in the first round and it worked well for him, but he slowed down in the second and third rounds. I’ll speed things up right off the bat now. In case I don’t submit him or knock him out, I’ll win the decision without any controversy.”
A decision win might not be enough for Schulte to secure a spot in the playoffs to compete for another million-dollar check, and he knows it. The Brazilian currently has zero points, standing behind Anthony Pettis (6), Raush Manfio (4), Clay Collard (3), Alexander Martinez (3) and Aubin-Mercier (3).
“I have to do everything I can to finish him before the end of the third round,” Schulte said. “Regardless of a knockout or submission, I just want to end this fight in the first round.”