"Sponge" may have wiped Hyun Gyu Lim clean; however, it did not come easy for him in that final round.
Tarec Saffiedine made his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut last night after a year-long layoff, defeating Lim in the main event of UFC Fight Night 34: "Saffiedine vs. Lim," which was broadcast from Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore, available only on "Fight Pass," the promotion's new online digital network.
Credit Lim for staying in the fight after being brutalized and dropped by leg kicks, especially at the end of the third round when he was close to being finished by the Team Quest-trained product. Both won "Fight of The Night" for their troubles.
Saffiedine's game plan comprised coming in strong on the inside, circling away from Lim's strikes. "Sponge" was lethal in the leg kick department, bruising Lim from start to finish. He was dropped in the first round; however, he recovered well up until the end of the fight.
Lim gave it everything he had left in the tank, rocking Saffiedine badly in the dying seconds of round five with huge punches and knees. But, it was a case of too little, too late. Saffiedine had done enough for the victory, and the damage was clearly shown with Lim lying down flat on his back directly after the final buzzer sounded.
The last Welterweight champion in Strikeforce history dazzled in his Octagon debut, and after claiming that former UFC champion Georges St. Pierre's absence makes the division exciting, he does have a point in terms of matchmaking scenarios and potential title challengers.
At this present time, Saffiedine may not have warranted a title shot after his victory on Saturday, but he is not too far off if he keeps on dominating in performances like the one he had against Lim. The welterweight division is wide open at the moment, with Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler fighting for the vacant championship at UFC 171 in Dallas, Texas.
Interesting enough, also on that card are a couple of 170-pound showdowns that include Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley and Jake Shields vs. Hector Lombard. And taking place one month earlier at UFC 170 is a battle between Demian Maia and Rory MacDonald.
Consider this a welterweight grand prix, including those fighters mentioned (or at least, acknowledge the fact that this is the closest we are ever going to get to seeing a legit eight-man tournament in UFC).Technically, a tournament cannot declare a champion in the first round, however when it comes to Condit, Woodley, Lombard, Shields and even Maia and MacDonald who are coming off of losses, it can declare who the next challenger for the strap is after Hendricks and Lawler throw down.
Saffiedine sits right outside of that mapping with his head poking in. Better yet, he needs to somehow enter this fictitious game, and deservingly so. He has won five straight, and as mentioned before, he was the last reigning Strikeforce Welterweight champion. Something has got to give, and Saffiedine can now look towards a Top 10-ranked opponent.
Maybe his lack of finishes does not give him the credit he deserves, or more so, the notice that other welterweights should be on watch.
Despite Lim catching him a few times, Saffiedine showcased his well rounded skills -- the fight was pretty one sided. As for his next opponent, he could face the winner of those fights at UFC 170 and UFC 171; however, the promotion may want to match him up with other top welterweights who do not have plans for the foreseeable future.
His original opponent, Jake Ellenberger -- who had to withdraw from the main event because of injury -- would be a good match up. It is unclear when Ellenberger can return to the Octagon, but if that fight materializes, it would be a fantastic barometer to see where Saffiedine sits.
Another rising welterweight that is flying under the radar right now is Matt Brown, and that could be the fight to make. "The Immortal" is in the midst of one hell of a resurgence, winning his last six fights. A title shot for Brown could be on the horizon if he wins one more over a top opponent. And although observers may not consider a win over Saffiedine as monumental as one over his original UFC on FOX 9 opponent, Carlos Condit, it should do the trick to at least have his name amongst the worthy title challengers.
And that goes both ways.
The thought of Saffiedine and Brown trading at the center of the Octagon would be highly enjoyable. And a win over another brings them higher up the ladder in the division. Whatever the case may be for "Sponge," there is no denying that the eagle has finally landed, proving that he can indeed be a force in the Octagon in 2014 and beyond.
For full recaps and fight coverage on UFC Fight Night 34: "Saffiedine vs. Lim" click here.