Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight prospects Tyson Pedro and Saparbek Safarov threw down last night (Feb. 10, 2018) at UFC 221 inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.
Pedro burst into the rankings after two quick stoppages in his first pair of UFC fights, but the veteran composure of Ilir Latifi slowed Pedro’s rise. Luckily, the UFC gave him a big chance to get back into the win column last night, pairing him off with a step back in competition in front of his home crowd. Filling the underdog role was Safarov, a combat Sambo fighter with just a single previous UFC fight. That bout took place over a year ago and was on short-notice, so the Russian was hoping to put on a better display of his ability.
Pedro opened the bout working an early jab and low kick, but Safarov was able to land a double leg takedown. However, Pedro did an excellent job of scrambling to the fence, using it to stand and angle off back to the center of the cage.
Before long, the rangy punches off Pedro found a mark, causing Safarov to shoot in desperation. Those shots rarely worked out, instead allowing the Aussie a chance to land knees and kicks in close. Safarov ate some heavy shots, but he fired back as well, landing some power shots of his own.
In the final minute of the round, Safarov landed a brief takedown and transitioned into a double leg takedown. Unfortunately for the Russian, Pedro countered with a kimura, yanking the arm passed his opponent’s back and forcing him to give up top position. Safarov was trapped, and Pedro put the finishing touches on the hold by hooking his foe’s head with his leg, allowing him to really crank on the shoulder.
This was a great performance from Pedro. Against a game slugger and wrestler, Pedro showed off his opportunistic skill. On the feet, he made great work of a long right hand, which landed frequently as both a counter and lead. When in the clinch, Pedro also showed a very nice dipping high kick on the break. Though it didn’t land cleanly, it was a great technique given his height advantage.
Contrary to what many expect given his kickboxing, most of Pedro’s wins come via submission. Though he did hurt Safarov, Pedro was always looking to snap his foe down to the mat or even land his own takedown. His opportunity to transition into jiu-jitsu came when Safarov hung onto the takedown attempt, and it was all over moments later.
Pedro is back in the win column, and a fellow ranked foe — someone like Patrick Cummins — should be next.
As for Safarov, he definitely performed better than his UFC debut. His power punches were a legitimate threat, and his wrestling seemed far more effective against Pedro. Safarov definitely had moments where he landed hard shots or scored with a big takedown, he just wasn’t able to build any consistent success from there.
All that said, the biggest pair of flaws shown in that debut remained. First and foremost, Safarov has no idea how to pace himself. No amount of technical improvement in the world matters if Safarov continues to sprint himself into the ground.
Still... tightening up his combinations would also be well-advised.
Last night, Tyson Pedro countered a takedown to score another early finish. Who should the Aussie face next?
For complete UFC 221: “Rockhold vs. Romero” results and play-by-play, click HERE!