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Strikeforce 'Rockhold vs Jardine' fight card: Tarec Saffiedine vs Tyler Stinson preview

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Saffiedine Stinson
Saffiedine Stinson

Two vastly different welterweight strikers will clash this Saturday night (January 7, 2012) at Team Quest prospect Tarec Saffiedine takes on powerful scrapper Tyler Stinson on the Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" main card.

Tarec Saffiedine comes from a martial arts background and has become proficient in taekwondo, Muay Thai and karate. He's coming off the most impressive victory of his four year career, crushing durable veteran Scott Smith and he's looking to ride that momentum all the way to a potential shot at the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title if he can get past Stinson.

Tyler Stinson entered mixed martial arts on a whim just over five years ago and has taken a severe liking to it. He's worked his way up from local shows and has begun taking on top competition in the last couple years. He destroyed Blackhouse Brazilian striker Eduardo Pamplona in his Strikeforce debut and is looking to thrust himself into the title picture with another huge upset victory.

Will Saffiedine's technical prowess be too much for his scrappy Midwestern foe? Can Stinson play spoiler once more with his power and six inch height advantage? How does each man earn a victory on Saturday night?

Let's find out:

Tarec Saffiedine

Record: 11-3 overall, 3-1 in Strikeforce

Key Wins: Scott Smith (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), James Terry (Strikeforce Challengers 6), Nate Moore (Strikeforce Challengers 8)

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 one year ago. 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.

He followed up his loss by turning Cinderella man Scott Smith into a human punching bag this past summer and he's hoping to potentially earn another shot at Woodley if he can put on a good show against Tyler Stinson on Saturday night.

How he gets it done: Saffiedine has a plethora of weapons which make him very dangerous. He's a patient fighter so he'll likely open cautiously, wary of the the Stinson's power but as he begins to see openings in Stinson's defense, he'll start to pick up the pace.

Saffiedine is very dangerous from any position. He's got nasty leg, body and head kicks as well as power in both hands. His biggest concern will likely be Stinson's power, but he's got terrific striking defenses so he's likely not going to be afraid to take risks in his stand-up because he covers his tracks well.

It's not very likely that this fight goes to the ground as both men are much more menacing on the feet and both are confident in their skills there but if anyone takes this fight to the canvas, it will likely be Saffiedine. Stinson has been prone to being submitted by talented jiu-jitsu fighters before, so if Saffiedine puts him on his back at some point, there's a possibility he could finish the fight there.

Tyler Stinson

Record: 22-7 overall, 1-0 in Strikeforce

Key Wins: Eduardo Pamplona (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson), Nate James (Bellator 40), Drew Fickett (C3 Fights)

Key Losses: Steve Carl (Bellator 26), Dan Hornbuckle (Bellator 15),

How he got here: Tyler Stinson has been a very busy man. Despite just being 25 years old, this will be his 30th professional fight of his career. "The Evolution" began competing in mixed martial arts in 2006, competing on all sorts of local midwest shows. He scores some impressive victories over the likes of Drew Fickett and Eric Marriot before catching his big break at the Bellator tryouts in 2010 to be granted an invite to the season two Bellator welterweight tournament.

He would come up short in the quarterfinals to Dan Hornbuckle via triangle choke, but after two more stoppage victories on the local circuit, he would get another opportunity to fight his way into a Bellator tournament when he took on Steve Carl in one of the most entertaining two and a half minute fights you'll ever see. He had Carl on the ropes but succumbed to a guillotine choke.

After two more victories including a close split decision over Strikeforce Challengers veteran Nate James, Stinson was brought in as a sacrificial lamb to face Blackhouse fighter Eduardo Pamplona, who had won 10 straight and was prepping for a push into the Strikeforce title picture. Stinson played spoiler, though, knocking the Brazilian out cold in just 15 seconds on the undercard of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson.

His victory caught the eyes of the Strikeforce suits and they gave him the opportunity of a lifetime against Saffiedine.

How he gets it done: The biggest advantage Stinson has going into this fight is his power and his fearlessness. He's got the potential to end the fight at any given moment if he can connect with his heavy hands.

Stinson's endurance and striking are terrific, so he can push a high pace in a stand-up war but his biggest issues are the ground game. His goal for this fight should be to push an incredible pace, force Saffiedine to play defense and never let up the aggression. If he allows "Sponge" to get comfortable or if he slows down, he could be in some major trouble.

He can't allow Saffiedine to take him down, so expect a constant assault of strikes from the "Team Punisher" fighter for as long as he can sustain it. He's got nothing to lose by being reckless because Saffiedine is likely favored heavily to win so he should throw everything he's got at the Belgian. There's a possibility he could catch Saffiedine napping early just like he did against Pamplona.

Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight is the technical differences in both men's striking styles. Tyler Stinson is more of a scrappy, hard-nosed warrior who is looking to throw out a large volume of heavy blows while Saffiedine is likely going to be more patient, selective and opportunistic with his strikes. In the stand-up at least, this fight reminds me a bit of Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone as, while Cerrone was the more technical striker, he had no answer for Diaz's constant barrage of blows. If Saffiedine is too passive in his striking, he could be overwhelmed. It should be a terrific stylistic battle while it lasts.

Bottom Line: Tyler Stinson is a fan's fighter. He goes out there and leaves everything in the cage every time. Look no further than his half-round war with Steve Carl to fully understand what I'm talking about. He's going to do everything he can to make this an exciting brawl, and there's a possibility he can drag Saffiedine into it if he can frustrate the Belgian. "The Sponge" will try to slow it down a notch and pick and choose his strikes, but there's a very high probability that he is forced to fight Stinson's fight, and the biggest winner if that happens will be the viewers. This should be a good one.

Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!