Tarec Saffiedine waited a long time to make his UFC debut, and the former Strikeforce welterweight champion made the most of it, recording a hard-earned unanimous decision victory over Hyun-Gyu Lim in Singapore.
The five-round contest was the main event of Fight Night 34 and produced the Fight of the Night. The 27-year old Belgian utilized a brutal and effective leg kick attack to visibly hamper his tough and ultra-game South Korean opponent. It was very similar to the strategy Saffiedine employed when he won the Strikeforce title against Nate Marquardt.
Lim, who had won his last seven fights, including six by first round stoppage, started strong in the opening frame by landing some big right hands that drove Saffiedine to the canvas. However, “Sponge” began to get into rhythm in round two with his punching combinations and low kicks. The kickboxing specialist had Lim limping by round three as he continued to chop down his lead leg in precise fashion.
Lim went to the canvas on multiple occasions, and there was one point where Saffiedine celebrated after sending Lim crumpling to the canvas with a leg kick as he thought the fight was actually over.
Lim showed tremendous heart and resolve as he came out swinging in round four in what looked like a final stand, but it was more of the same as Saffiedine was landing the more effective punches and mixed in more leg kicks, along a brutal knee to the body that hurt Lim. The Belgian even mixed in a flying knee for good measure.
It was another impressive round for Saffiedine, and once again you wondered if “The Ace” would be able to make it out for the fifth round because of the damage that had been inflicted to his leg.
Saffiedine seemed to play it safe in the final round, while Lim wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Despite basically fighting on one leg, he summoned the strength to badly rock Saffiedine in the dying seconds of the fight with a huge right hand and a follow up flying knee. Saffiedine was on rubbery legs as the bout concluded, but emerged with the victory by margins of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 on the scorecards.
With the victory, Saffiedine improved to 15-3 in his career and made it five consecutive victories. He credited Lim for his tremendous toughness and added that he wanted to face a top-10 opponent next. It was a solid Octagon debut in his first fight since January of 2013 as Saffiedine showed he has the tools to be a threat in the division.
Lim, for his part, saw his seven-fight win streak snapped and lost for the first time inside the Octagon after a pair of stoppage triumphs. His stock certainly doesn’t drop any given the courage he showed and the fact that he took the main event slot against a dangerous opponent when Jake Ellenberger was forced to withdraw due to a hamstring injury.
The spirited 170-pound scrap was a solid main event to kick off the UFC’s very busy 2014 schedule. There’s no doubt fans will look forward to the next time both men are set to appear in the Octagon.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports