Well, it's official, Tarec Saffiedine is for real.
The last man to hold the Strikeforce welterweight championship made his Octagon debut after a year on the sidelines, dominating Hyun Gyu Lim in the UFC Fight Night 34 main event, which took place on Saturday (Jan. 4, 2014) at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on the promotion's new "Fight Pass" digital network.
See our full results and play-by-play here.
Being a former champion with a 15-3 record -- along with a five-fight winning streak -- you would think that Saffiedine would elevate himself into "the mix" with his dismantling of "The Ace" overseas.
Maybe, maybe not.
The Belgian banger hasn't finished a fight in nearly four years, across a span of seven professional mixed martial arts (MMA) contests. That's not to suggest that knockouts are an indication of striking ability, nor would I favor them over a display of top-drawer technique.
But when the finish is there, you have to take it.
Considering how much damage Lim had sustained in Saturday's headliner, I was a bit surprised that Saffiedine didn't make a more concerted effort to end the fight. Whether he was being overly cautious, or just didn't have the killer instinct, is unknown.
I see I wasn't the only one.
Makes no sense why TS doesn't keep this standing? Fight would be over— Dana White (@danawhite) January 4, 2014
And a finish could have prevented that scare in the fifth round, when Lim went berserk and let out a war cry.
In the end, a win is a win. But anyone who has been following MMA in the past year or so knows that wins and losses by themselves are not a precursor to title shots.
Like it or not, the fight game lives and dies on dollars spent, and the small percentage of intelligent, educated fans, are trumped by the unwashed masses, who consistently plunk down their paper in hopes that two guys will try to kill each other.
Would they pay to see work from a patient, technical striker?
A finish would also go a long way in getting Saffiedine into "the mix," simply because he hasn't beaten anyone in the top 10 of his division. His original opponent, Jake Ellenberger, is sitting pretty at number five, But Lim didn't even crack the top 15, so a dominant decision does not allow "The Sponge" to soak up additional spots (see the full rankings here).
Onward and upward.
It will be interesting to see what the promotion has in mind for his next fight. Matt Brown is expected to be off the injured reserves later this year and would make an interesting opponent, as "The Immortal" employs a "kill or be killed" style of fighting, which could in turn force the finish.
In either direction.
It's a sensitive subject these days, no question, as fans started to grow weary of 25-minute odysseys from ex-champions like Georges St. Pierre (welterweight) and Ben Henderson (lightweight), who combined have 15 decision wins since late 2009.
Nevertheless, Saffiedine got his Octagon debut out of the way and can now focus on making a run at 170 pounds. How quickly he gets to the top could depend on how quickly he gets through his next fights. A finish doesn't guarantee a title shot.
But unless you're good at this, it certainly helps.