The Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" main card tonight (Sat., Jan. 7, 2012) in Las Vegas, Nevada, kicked off with a welterweight war pitting title contending hopefuls Tarec Saffiedine vs. Tyler Stinson. The winner would have a legitimate case for a shot at the vacant 170-pound strap.
Lack of depth plays a part in that, of course, but it is what it is. And the contenders have to come from somewhere.
Tonight, it was Saffiedine who emerged from this three round battle as a potential candidate for a championship fight. It's not so much that he was altogether impressive in victory -- he struggled a great deal, actually -- but a win is a win and Strikeforce doesn't exactly have a lot of options.
A pair of takedowns in the second and third rounds for Saffiedine negated Stinson's power striking for a split decision victory. "It wasn't the best performance but I got the job done, so I'm pretty happy," Tarec said in the post-fight interview. Will he occupy one of the two vacant slots in the upcoming welterweight championship fight?
We shall see.
Stinson came out firing shots, looking to land that crushing knockout blow he's become known for. Saffiedine, of course, has been in the cage before and had no plans to let himself get knocked out.
Some nifty footwork kept his face from getting caved in early. In fact, Tarec worked a few kicks to keep his foe at bay and it worked with a calm efficiency. A couple head kicks and Stinson was noticeably slower.
That is until they clinched and pummeled against the cage. Saffiedine was in control for the most part, although Stinson attempted an armbar that didn't come close to finishing the fight. He kept the pressure on, though, and by the time the round was up, Saffiedine was contending with a cut under his eye.
The second round opened with a lot of the same. Stinson winging huge punches after lunging in without setting anything up. I'm not sure he threw a single jab the entire fight, which was odd because his reach advantage was considerable.
Despite the fact that Saffiedine was getting lit up with big shots, he remained cool and worked his game, earning a takedown about halfway through the frame. And that's where the second stanza ended, Saffiedine on top staying busy.
Points, points, points.
It's no surprise, then, that Saffiedine went right back to the well with another quick takedown to start the third. With the fight close and the scores undoubtedly questionable, "The Sponge" used the old top control game to grind it on out.
Whatever works, right?