This Saturday night (July 30, 2011), two welterweight strikers will duke it out as veteran brawler Scott Smith takes on Belgian dynamo Tarec Saffiedine in the opening fight of the Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" main card in Chicago, Illinois.
Smith's career has been on a downward spiral as of late. The comeback specialist has lost three of four fights and his welterweight debut against Paul Daley didn't go exactly as planned. He's giving it one more go at 170-pounds against one of Strikeforce's most well-rounded prospects.
Tarec Saffiedine isn't a household name...yet. The exciting and diverse striker trains out of Team Quest alongside Dan Henderson, who's helped add some wrestling to his already dangerous arsenal of attacks. The Belgian is coming off his first loss at welterweight in four years and is hoping to hop back on the horse and take care of business against a scrappy veteran in Smith.
Can Smith pull a rabbit out of his hat one last time and cauterize his career's wounds? Will the upstart Saffiedine be too much for his experienced foe? Will "old school" or "new school" reign supreme on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Scott Smith
Record: 17-8 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-3 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Cung Le (Strikeforce: Evolution), Benji Radach (Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz), Kyle Noke (EliteXC: Street Certified)
Key Losses: Paul Daley (Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu), Cung Le (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum), Nick Diaz (Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields)
How he got here: Scott Smith has fought in four weight classes throughout his 10 year career. After starting out at heavyweight, he gradually cut all the way down to middleweight which is where he fought in the UFC. He was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season four and performed one of the wildest come-from-behind knockouts in MMA history against Pete Sell on the finale.
After washing out of the UFC, Smith would earn a title shot against Robbie Lawler in EliteXC but would lose via second round knockout.
Smith built a name for himself as a comeback fighter, absorbing large amounts of punishment and coming back in Rocky-esque fashion. Smith's dramatic third round knockouts of Benji Radach and Cung Le after taking a beating were two of the most incredible highlights of 2009.
Sadly, things have turned sour for the man known as "Hands of Steel."
Le would defeat Smith soundly in the rematch, brutalizing him with flashy kicks and punches. After the loss, the Cinderella man decided to drop to welterweight for the first time in his career. He looked drawn out against Paul Daley in his 170 pound debut and was massacred in short order, culminating in one of 2010's finest knockouts.
Despite initially hinting he'd return to middleweight, Smith is back for another round at 170.
How he gets it done: Scott Smith isn't going to shock and awe you with a vast array of techniques. Throughout his career he's relied on two things: his power in both hands and his ability to take a beating.
He doesn't have great technique, defense or much of a ground game (although he's a decent wrestler). What he loves to do is stand and bang.
Expect Smith to wade forward, taking punches to give them. Saffiedine doesn't hit quite as hard as his last opponent, Daley, so he may just have one more crazy comeback in him yet.
Smith's best shot at winning is to lure the Belgian into a false sense of security and explode forward with that huge right hand if he drops his defenses. There's no reason why history can't repeat itself.
Record: 10-3 overall, 2-1 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: James Terry (Strikeforce Challengers 6), Nate Moore (Strikeforce Challengers 8), Brock Larson (Shark Fights 13)
Key Losses: Tyron Woodley (Strikeforce Challengers 13)
How he got here: Tarec Saffiedine grew up in Belgium with a strong background in the striking arts. He had a 12-1 record as an amateur kickboxer but fell in love with Muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu which led to his transition to mixed martial arts.
He came to the US to train with Dan Henderson's Team Quest where he quickly earned the nickname "Sponge" for his incredible ability to absorb new information and utilize it. His only loss for four years was a close split decision to Yoon Dong-Sik when he stepped up in weight on very short notice in DREAM.
After getting off to a hot start in the Strikeforce Challengers series, he was slated to face fellow top welterweight prospect Tyron Woodley this past January. In that fight, Woodley repeatedly took Saffiedine down, frustrating him with top control while avoiding all of his sweeps and submission attempts on the ground to take a unanimous decision.
This Saturday night will be Saffiedine's first fight since suffering the loss and it'll be interesting to see how he responds after being physically dominated by a powerful wrestler.
How he gets it done: Saffiedine has many more weapons than Smith.
He'll likely open cautiously, wary of the the Californian's power but as he sees the many openings in Smith's porous defenses, he'll build confidence and begin to open up.
The Belgian has excellent defenses standing so he should be comfortable taking risks because Smith simply doesn't utilize his wrestling credentials anymore (if he ever did) and even if Smith shot for a takedown, Saffiedine's defense has only been breached by the most gifted wrestlers.
Saffiedine is very dangerous from any position. He's got nasty leg, body and head kicks as well as power in both hands. He'll be the faster man as well as eight years younger on Saturday night so expect him to use that speed to his advantage, bouncing around the cage and working proper angles to utilize his superior striking technique.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this fight is Scott Smith's chin. He's taken a ton of punishment throughout his career and his chin has been the key to many of his miraculous come-from-behind victories. The problem, though, is that a chin doesn't last forever.
Just ask Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell.
Smith has been knocked out in both of his last two fights and the last loss to Paul Daley was brutal. Cutting down to 170 pounds may have weakened his chin even more with how drawn out he looked and there's no telling how much bonus damage he's taken in training.
If Smith can't handle Saffiedine's superior (and safer) strikes, this one could get ugly.
Bottom Line: This is a match-up of two exciting strikers that have been in some great battles. Saffiedine puts on a show when he's got an advantage (ex. Nate Moore) while Smith is like a wild animal that's been backed into a corner, possibly more dangerous than ever. Expect fists to be flying for up to three rounds, although this one should end before the judges have their say.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson? Let us know in the comments section below!