Canada’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier and two-time lightweight champ Natan Schulte kicked off the main card of PFL 1 on Wednesday — the Professional Fighter’s League season opener for 2022.
The lightweight bout in Arlington, Texas found Schulte looking to start on a path back to gold, after coming up short last year for the first time in his three years with the promotion.
It was the “Canadian Gangster” finding success early, however, first with a body kick, followed up by a knee. That would be a sign of things to come. Schulte appeared hurt, but would weather a brief storm up against the fence. Aubin-Mercier would go back to that body kick again moments later, but the action was halted when a finger grazed the eye of Schulte.
A “hard warning” later, and they were back underway. Schulte continued to press forward, but he ate another hard body kick later in the round. Aubin-Mercier would add a leg kick; Schulte would fire a wild right hand, but a short left would connect. Schulte pressed in the final ten seconds, but the round arguably belonged to “OAM.”
Aubin-Mercier targeted the body again in the second, this time with a jab rather than a kick. He’d rip the body with a hook moments later, keeping his opponent guessing when a low kick followed. Schulte, as in the first, was not deterred, continually moving forward. It was the Canadian, however, who was firing first, throwing short combos. He’d add a jumping knee just past the midway mark, go back to a low kick, then find a home for his left.
While the second was a closer round, it was one that still seemed to favor the Canadian.
A third round would be required to sort out Schulte vs. Aubin-Mercier on Wednesday. It was, arguably, Schulte’s best round. He was just a little more aggressive, a little more persistent in pressing the attack. Where Aubin-Mercier had shown plenty of lateral movement in rounds one and two, in the third, he was outright retreating at times — and slowing. With just under two minutes remaining, Aubin-Mercier changed levels for a takedown, but couldn’t land it. Schulte would then initiate a clinch up against the fence, pinning his opponent.
Just as a third round was necessitated to determine a winner, the judges were as well. After a close three rounds, two of those judges sided with Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who picked up the win over a two-time champ — and earned three points towards the playoffs.
Official Result: Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Natan Schulte by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)