Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Tarec Saffiedine and Hyun Gyu Lim went to war in the main event of yesterday's (Sat., Jan. 4, 2014) UFC Fight Night 34 from Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore.
Belgian-born Saffiedine made his long-awaited Octagon debut after ending his Strikeforce run as the promotion's final Welterweight champion. He was slated to face current UFC 170-pound title challenger Robbie Lawler at UFC on Fox 8 in July 2013, but a slew of injuries kept him on the sideline for the majority of last year.
"Sponge" was then set to face top-ranked 170-pound standout Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 34, but an injury forced "Juggernaut" out, too.
In stepped Lim, who despite being lesser known than Saffiedine, had already notched two impressive finishes inside the Octagon. His most recent effort was a brutal striking stoppage of Pascal Krauss at UFC 164 in August 2013.
The Korean-born Lim looked to put a stamp on Saffiedine and establish himself as a player in the super-talented UFC welterweight arena. He wasn't quite able to accomplish that goal, but he certainly gained many fans in an effort to do so.
Ultimately Saffiedine put on a striking clinic to batter and bruise Lim on his way to a decision victory. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for "Sponge." Even in a loss Lim proved that he is one of the best up-and-coming prospects in all of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Let's take a look back at UFC Fight Night 34's exciting main event.
The bout started off with Lim taking the center of the Octagon as the two fighters looked to find their rhythm. Saffiedine scored a good straight left hand and Lim fought back with a knee. Saffiedine unveiled his patented skillset by throwing some hard leg kicks. They landed but Lim soon knew they were coming, dropping Saffiedine with a perfectly timed counter right hand. "Sponge" went to the well once again and was dropped as Lim found his timing effectively.
Saffiedine's movement level was high when the second round opened up. Lim found a home for some punches before Saffiedine landed some good shots of his own. Despite Lim's noticeable reach advantage, Saffiedine was able to get inside "Ace's" striking range to land big right hands over the top. Lim looked to use his jab for a bit but eventually resorted to throwing a wild combo that never quite materialized.
Saffiedine responded by nailing Lim with leg kicks and right hands. It became apparent that the low kicks were beginning to have an effect on Lim just like they did on Nate Marquardt in the final Strikeforce bout.
The exciting second round gave way to the third, where the pace was toned down for a short while. Saffiedine soon floored Lim with another right, only to have the Korean prospect get back to his feet. Looking to mix it up, Saffiedine immediately shot in for a takedown and secured it. Lim went for a heel hook then got up to absorb yet another brutal leg kick.
This one dropped him and Saffiedine swarmed to kick Lim's leg on the ground. "Sponge" remained in Lim's half guard before the fight was stood back up. Saffiedine utilized his go-to tactic once again. This time his kicks were truly beginning to put Lim in danger. For a moment, Saffiedine celebrated what he thought to be a finish, but Lim was allowed to continue.
More powerful leg kicks left Lim struggling to stand and the announcers speculating if he would even answer the bell for the fourth round.
He did, and Saffiedine gave him more of the same as the frame began. Lim began swinging with reckless abandon in an attempt to score a shocking knockout. Saffiedine was too smart to be caught, however. He hit Lim with a big knee to the body and then an absolutely picture-perfect flying knee. Lim instantly went to the ground and Saffiedine followed to look for an arm triangle choke. It wasn't there but "Sponge" ended up in a dominant position with the mount. Saffiedine rained down punches as Lim gave up his back, signifying a one-sided round for the Belgian kickboxer.
More leg kicks obviously hurt Lim to start the fifth round, but he wouldn't give up. He uncorked some flurries of his own, nailing Saffiedine with some sharp combinations. The low kicks continued to be his kryptonite, yet somehow Lim persevered to rock Saffiedine with big knees and punches. You could see Saffiedine shy away from the fight, biding his time until the bell sounded. Lim continued to look for the finish, and he may have got it had the fight lasted just a bit longer.
In the end Saffiedine locked up a solid decision win with an excellent display of striking. His patented leg kicks proved to be one of the most dangerous weapons in MMA. Lim knew they were coming, and for a while he had his timing down enough to counter them effectively. But their damaging effects soon took hold and sapped his power significantly.
Saffiedine fought a smart and polished bout in his UFC debut. The only downfall of his performance may have been the fact that he noticeably tired and was nearly finished towards the end of the fight. His next fight will be against a top welterweight. Although it probably won't be another five round affair, Saffiedine definitely has to shore up his conditioning if he wants to contend with the elite opposition near the top of the stacked UFC 170-pound arena.
His wrestling and grappling looked on point so he could definitely become a dark horse contender with another impressive win. He's going to need some finishes to do it; however, because he only has one knockout in his entire career. He failed in a clear chance to add another one at UFC Fight Night 34, but a lot of that has to be attributed to Lim's sheer toughness.
"The Ace" showed a massive amount of heart, determination, and toughness in the loss. He could have easily given in and quit in the face of Saffiedine's endless barrage of leg kicks.
Instead he kept pushing forward, looking to finish the fight. That's the mark of a fighter who company president Dana White loves to keep employed. He'll most likely get another name opponent in his next bout. He could be on the shelf for some time after the beating he just incurred. Regardless, the future looks very promising for the still-improving Lim.
He should be a welterweight fixture for years to come after three very exciting fights in the Octagon. Saffiedine, meanwhile, is off to another hot start to the New Year ... let's see if he can keep the momentum rolling in 2014.
Tarec Saffiedine proved he has the skills to take the Octagon by storm by battering Hyun Gyu Lim over the course of a five round affair. But does he have what it takes to contend with the best 170-pound fighters UFC has to offer?