As is the usual case when a fighter steps in on short-notice, Nasrat Haqparast arrived in the UFC relatively unknown and with no promotional backing.
Despite an impressive debut performance against Marcin Held at UFC Fight Night 118, Haqparast’s efforts are still mostly unknown to the world. Of course, there was a multitude of stories coming out of the event in Poland. At the forefront was Darren Till’s absolute destruction of Donald Cerrone.
The narrative after this fight, though, was all about how Held had finally secured a win in the UFC. It took the 25-year-old four tries to score a victory, but even then, Haqparast pushed him to the limit. At one stage in the second round, it looked as though Haqparast would score a stunning upset in front of Held’s fans in Poland. At the end of it all, however, Haqparast would lose a unanimous decision to the local favorite as each judge scored the bout 30-27.
Haqparast, however, feels as though he had done enough to win the contest and there’s definitely evidence supporting his claim.
A questionable set of scorecards
I have watched the fight a few times now. Every time I watch the fight, I get more upset because I really think the decision was not fair.
Haqparast has a strong argument. He rocked Marcin Held with a booming left hand at the start of round two that sent the Polish fighter crashing into the mat. In a matter of unfortunate timing, Held would recover as the referee stepped in to adjust to Haqparast's clothing. The knockdown was the pinnacle of Haqparast's striking dominance in rounds one and two.
Round two was definitely my best round, I knocked him down and had a nice judo throw.
After the 20-second break to fix Haqparast's shorts, Held attempted to take Haqparast down to the mat but the UFC newcomer showed outstanding takedown defense. In between stuffing Held's takedowns, he also inflicted more damage as he found a home for his strong left hand.
Mid-way through the second round, Held secured a takedown and maintained control his opponent for the rest of the round.
Under the new scoring system, which rewards damage, dominance, and duration, it was surprising to see that all three judges had scored round two in favor of Marcin Held. This is especially considering that Held was never close to a submission and barely attempted to inflict damage, let alone impact his opponent.
A cool head
Haqparast didn't just look impressive in round two, however.
From the first seconds of the contest, he showed an unbelievable level of composure and maturity inside the octagon. His balanced aggression, fluid striking, and constant movement caused Held problems from the very start. To anyone unfamiliar, it would have been outrageous to believe Haqparast was making his organizational debut in a hostile environment.
I felt so calm because I was happy to finally show my skills in front of thousands of people. I also knew that he's one of the best fighters in the world and it's his home in front of 15,000 people. So, I didn't have any pressure.
There's often an element of reduced pressure when a fighter is taking a short-notice fight. Sometimes the often 12-week buildup to a contest can add a sense of nervousness for when the date arrives.
But, there's also an element of a martial artist always being prepared to step into battle. Just two weeks before UFC Fight Night 118, Nasrat Haqparast was asked to step in and replace the injured Teemu Packalen. The decision was a no-brainer.
However, there's now the added mystery whether Haqparast could have finished his opponent if he had more time to prepare.
I'm always in training and always in shape. But honestly, it was kind of a short time to prepare for a ground specialist like him. Imagine if I had an eight-week camp and could focus on takedown defense with master Rafael Cordeiro.
Next time we see Nasrat Haqparast in the UFC's octagon, he will be fully prepared and extra determined to erase the memory of this loss against Marcin Held.
Were you impressed with Nasrat Haqparast's debut?
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