One of the top Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Korean fighters, Hyun Gyu Lim, takes on final Strikeforce Welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine, this Saturday (Jan. 4, 2013) at Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world! At least, that's what UFC President Dana White repeatedly tells us. And for that to be true, the world's premier combat sports organization has to expand across the world.
Therefore, for the first time, UFC will hit Singapore with a non-televised event, only viewable via its new "Fight Pass" online digital network.
One half of the UFC Fight Night 34 main event is Hyun Gyu Lim. Just two fights into his UFC career, "The Ace" has made a name for himself quickly, finishing two opponents with brutal knees before accepting a bout with a top ranked contender on short notice.
Can Lim capitalize on not only his first main event spot, but his first time fighting on the main card?
Let's find out:
The first thing that's clearly visible about Lim is his massive size. At 6"3' with a 79-inch reach, "The Ace" is taller and longer than a fair amount of Light Heavyweights, yet spends his time mangling Welterweight competition. It's not easy for Lim to make the weight -- he was scratched from his original UFC debut because of weight issues -- but it gives him a massive advantage over his opponents.
In his two UFC fights, Lim has demonstrated two very different styles of fighting. In his most recent bout, Lim went toe-to-toe with Pascal Krauss, trading power punches. Before that, he faced Marcelo Guimaraes and looked to control the Brazilian at range before reverting to his brawling instincts in the final moments of the bout.
Overall, Lim is a much more proficient slugger than technician.
On the outside, Lim does a decent job landing his jab and leg kicks. Even though he's such a large Welterweight, he's quick enough to work strikes and then slip out of range. Lim also uses the front kick well, but he doesn't throw it enough.
Lim's biggest problem when trying to work his opponent from the outside is his head movement. When he's trying to work jabs and kicks, his head sits perfectly still atop his giant frame. Add that to the fact that he stands pretty tall and suddenly a rudimentary striker like Guimaraes is able to occasionally land some wild punches.
Against Krauss, Lim stood in the center of the Octagon and threw hard shots. In particular, his straight right, which he frequently threw as a lead, and left hook inflicted constant damage on "Panzer." Additionally, his head movement in the pocket was excellent, as he slipped a majority of Krauss' punches and accompanied almost all of his own attacks with some kind of move.
One thing Lim did well in both fights was counter. As his opponent tried to close the distance, Lim would step back and throw his own punches, generally either the left hook, right cross, or both. Lim's reach advantage is important here; it makes the counters much easier, and safer, to land.
Another nice way Lim mixes up his attack is with body shots. Lim's long jab works especially well when thrown at his opponent's bread basket, as does his straight right. When he throws the left hook to the body, Lim does a very good job getting his head off the center line, making it more difficult for his opponent to counter the strike.
Lim's use of knees separates him from most other fighters. Not only is he very dangerous inside the Muay Thai clinch with knees, but his stepping knees are spectacular. To set up his stepping knee, Lim routinely charges his opponent with a combination of powerful punches. After establishing how dangerous his boxing is, Lim will switch it up and charge in with the knee. If his opponent, expecting punches, slips or goes for a takedown, he's in danger of getting knocked cold.
Lim's offensive wrestling ability is pretty much an unknown because he is yet to even attempt a takedown inside the Octagon. The only takedown I've seen him complete is a blurry double leg in a regional promotion, which doesn't prove much of anything.
However, Lim has proven that he has solid takedown defense. "The Ace's" primary defense is his length, which forces his opponents to shoot from a far distance. When his opponent dives for a double leg, Lim merely steps back and extends his arms, pushing off the shoulder if his opponent gets close enough. More often than not, Lim doesn't even need to sprawl.
Lim's takedown defense is not impenetrable. The biggest task is getting in on his hips, but if his opponent accomplishes that, the takedown seems to come easily. Guimaraes managed to get in deep twice, simply by timing Lim's aggression well, and succeeded on throwing him to the mat both times.
Unfortunately, like his wrestling, little is known about Lim's submission game. He does have a recent standing guillotine victory, which earned him the Pacific Extreme Combat belt, but the video is both too grainy and too far away to reveal anything about his technique.
For what it's worth, I've only heard good things about Lim's grappling. In addition to the story that he submitted UFC color commentator Joe Rogan (who's a skilled grappler) in training, Lim's submission abilities are rumored by his camp to be very strong. I personally got to meet and roll with one of Lim's cornerman not long after Lim's victory over Krauss, who assured the entire gym that Lim's a very good grappler.
It's also worth noting that his most recent submission loss was in 2008, and the other was just his third pro fight.
Best Chance For Success
Lim may be the taller fighter, but he's not better on the outside than Saffiedine. Trying to pick "The Sponge" apart at range would likely be disastrous for the South Korean, as he probably needs to finish Saffiedine to win.
To defeat Saffiedine, Lim has to be the aggressor and chase him with hard punches. Saffiedine may be a technical striker, but he doesn't hit particularly hard. Lim can afford to take chances and throw risky strikes such as his beloved stepping knees since Saffiedine is not much of a knockout threat.
What Lim does have to be wary of is Saffiedine's leg kicks. If Guimaraes can land leg kicks at will, then Saffiedine will have a field day. Pressuring Saffiedine is a partial solution, as it will be hard for him to kick if he's moving backward, but Lim needs to check kicks whenever possible.
It's important for Lim to realize that it will be very difficult to win a decision over Saffiedine, especially on short notice. Lim's massive weight cut has its drawbacks, and judging by the Guimaraes bout, cardio seems to be one of them. Saffiedine can fight five hard rounds, while Lim probably can't. "The Ace" has to go after Saffiedine and either finish or do extremely significant damage early or Saffiedine will take over late.
Can Lim overcome the odds and take out the former Strikeforce strap-hanger or will Saffiedine have a successful UFC debut?