Nothing came easy once Aubin-Mercier dealt with a potential leg injury after absorbing several calf kicks early in the fight but he kept pushing for takedowns, which allowed him to control Collard on the ground for huge swaths of time. Late in the fifth and final round, Aubin-Mercier nearly pulled off a fight finishing submission with a rear-naked choke but Collard fought his way free to make it to the final bell.
In the end, all three judges scored the fight 49-46 for Aubin-Mercier, who improved to 10-0 in the PFL with another $1 million prize to add to his bank account. After teasing his possible retirement heading into Friday night, Aubin-Mercier stopped short of calling it a career but he did announce plans to take an extended break heading into 2024.
“Thank you PFL for believing in me,” Aubin-Mercier said. “Look where I am right now. I did three main events this year. Congrats on signing all those fighters from Bellator. I think the PFL is the future.
“Sand in between my toes I would say [is next]. I’m going to take a break. Two years ago, I told my little girl it was the last summer I was going to work. I worked this year. So I think I need to spend time with my family.”
If this somehow ends up as his last fight, Aubin-Mercier can proudly proclaim that he overcame a lot of adversity after dominating the opening round with his wrestling and grappling control but then battling through a leg injury that severely affected his movement.
The majority of the 25 minutes saw Aubin-Mercier planting Collard on the ground as the Canadian consistently shredded his defense while taking the back and locking on a body triangle. Again and again, Aubin-Mercier maintained that same position with Collard stuck playing defense.
In the briefest moments on the feet, Collard’s best offense came from a few calf kicks that chipped away at Aubin-Mercier’s foundation. While he didn’t land many, Collard’s kicks did enough damage that Aubin-Mercier was almost dragging his leg at moments, which led to him abandoning his striking and just constantly seeking takedowns.
The grappling heavy performance from Aubin-Mercier didn’t slow down but as time passed, Collard’s ability to scramble free started paying off. When Collard finally got back to his feet, he was digging to Aubin-Mercier’s body and trying to do damage while still fending off more takedown attempts.
As the fight moved into the fourth round, Collard was starting to pursue Aubin-Mercier with a lot more aggression with the Canadian’s lead leg really beginning to stifle his movement. Just when it looked like Collard might be getting some momentum, Aubin-Mercier finally scored another takedown, which then allowed him to advance to lock on a body triangle yet again.
Aubin-Mercier stayed on the attack, looking for the rear-naked choke and maintaining control and as time ran out, Collard realized that despite his best efforts, he was going to lose the fight.
It was a valiant effort from Aubin-Mercier, especially considering the damage done to his leg but he can now celebrate the victory along with the $1 million prize.
Ideally for the PFL, Aubin-Mercier would get set up in a champion versus champion showdown against Bellator lightweight king Usman Nurmagomedov in early 2024 but it appears that won’t happen any time soon. Nurmagomedov is dealing with a six-month suspension handed down by the California State Athletic Commission and it appears Aubin-Mercier won’t be fighting again until he’s enjoyed some much needed time off.
Where that leaves the PFL lightweight division it’s tough to say but Aubin-Mercier obviously earned his vacation after another hard-fought season capped off by a title fight victory.