Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debuted on its online digital network, Fight Pass, this past Saturday (Jan. 4, 2014) with UFC Fight Night 34 ... and it was early.
"Saffiedine vs. Lim," which took place at Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore, was met with criticism more so because of its unknown participants, but all in all, the event was decent.
In the main event, Tarec Saffiedine came off of a year-long layoff after winning the Strikeforce welterweight championship to defeat Hyun Gyu Lim via unanimous decision. Lim was a replacement for Jake Ellenberger, who withdrew from the fight because of an injury a few months ago.
Despite a late rally from Lim, Saffiedine was able to brutalize his foe with leg kicks and slick combinations on the inside, almost finishing his counterpart in the later rounds.
Japanese legend Tatsuya Kawajiri made his long overdue UFC debut, choking out Sean Soriano in the co-main event. Kawajiri showcased the reason he is known as "Crusher," using a grappling-based strategy to defeat the young prospect, winning with a rear-naked choke less than one minute into the second round.
Indeed, after every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are already thinking about what the future holds for the stars of the show. With another night of action-packed fights, let's peer into our crystal ball and predict possible matchmaking scenarios.
With that being said, let us examine potential match ups for each of the UFC Fight Night 34 main card winners:
Winner: Kyung Ho Kang
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Bryan Caraway vs. Lucas Martins
Why They Should Fight: There is no reason to rush Kyung Ho Kang into anything too serious at the moment in terms of stronger competition. He is certainly not ready to fight a ranked opponent despite looking good against Shunichi Shimizu and in a loss to Chico Camus in his previous outing. He secured his first UFC victory out of three tries, and to continue to climb up the ranks, he obviously needs wins.
Bryan Caraway and Lucas Martins are set to duke it out at UFC 170 in February. And they both have the ability to bring forth an exciting fight with Kang, with the possibility of the fight going everywhere no matter who Kang faces.
Winner: Kiichi Kunimoto
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Mike Pyle vs. T.J. Waldburger at UFC 170
Why They Should Fight: We did not learn enough about Kiichi Kunimoto at UFC Fight Night 34 simply because he was blasted with 12-to-6 elbows to the back of the head by Luiz Dutra. You could have them fight again, yet Kunimoto technically won that fight, which does not quite make it a Ross Pearson vs. Melvin Guillard case.
Kunimoto should fight the winner of Mike Pyle and T.J. Waldburger, which also takes place at UFC 170. We should get more of a clearer indication of what he is made out of with durable opponents such as Pyle and Waldburger.
Winner: Tatsuya Kawajiri
Who He Should Fight Next: Cub Swanson
Why They Should Fight: Here is where it starts to get interesting at Featherweight.
Like we discussed last week in this very column at UFC 168, the Featherweight division is more or less mapped out for the foreseeable future. One athlete on the rise is Cub Swanson, who looks reborn under the UFC banner. Swanson is currently riding a five-fight win streak. And it may only take one more win for him to get another crack at either Jose Aldo, Ricardo Lamas or the next guy in line, Chad Mendes -- and ironically enough, Swanson has lost to all three of those combatants, which make up his last three losses.
If Swanson needs one more, pit him against Kawajiri, who's post-fight interview ranks as one of the best ever, where he also discussed his eagerness to challenge for the title. Kawajiri looked very strong in his debut. And the time is now for the 36-year old if he wants to pursue gold.
Call it striker versus grappler; however, "slobberknocker" would be better suited.
Winner: Tarec Saffiedine
Who He Should Fight Next: Matt Brown
Why They Should Fight: For starters, this was supposed to be Saffiedine's first opponent in UFC after being declared as the last-ever Welterweight champ for Strikeforce.
Secondly, this fight would be a barnburner from start to finish. Saffiedine and Brown have similar styles and chances are they would meet at the center and exchange strikes until the final buzzer sounds or until one of them cannot continue
And judging from their toughness, who knows if this fight would be cut short.
The 170-pound division is wide open right now and Saffiedine would like to prove that he is, in fact, championship material, having gold around his waist when he jumped ship to the UFC. Although fellow Welterweight Jake Ellenberger would not be a bad option, either. Brown withdrew from his UFC on FOX 9 bout with Carlos Condit because of injury, and now that Condit has Tyron Woodley to worry about at UFC 171, it makes a potential scrap between Saffiedine and Brown that more intriguing.
With "Sponge" on a five-fight win streak, and Brown boasting six-straight victories, it does make perfect sense for them to square off. And to see who can climb the welterweight ranks by potentially securing a title shot first.
For full recaps and fight coverage on UFC Fight Night 34: "Saffiedine vs. Lim" check out our story stream here.