Tarec Saffiedine (12-3, 4-1 Strikeforce) vs. Roger Bowling (11-2, 4-2 Strikeforce)
The Matchup: Outside of a hiccup against 170-pound title contender Tyron Woodley, Saffiedine has impressed during his Strikeforce tenure. With continued development, the Belgian could eventually challenge for promotional gold. Most recently, “Sponge” weathered an early storm from Tyler Stinson in the first round at Strikeforce “Rockhold vs. Jardine” to earn a hard-fought split decision victory. While it was not his most dominant effort, Saffiedine displayed solid cage savvy, switching to a takedown- and ground-and-pound-heavy approach after getting rocked on the feet in the opening frame.
Bowling last appeared in the Strikeforce hexagon in March, stopping Brandon Saling with strikes on the ground in the second round in a bout that drew more attention for Saling’s criminal record and Neo-Nazi-themed tattoos than the action in the cage. Despite it being a relatively easy victory, Bowling was wobbled by power punches on a couple occasions in the opening round, a fact which does not bode well for him against a more technical striker such as Saffiedine.
Early in his career, Bowling was able to succeed simply because he was a better athlete than most of his opponents. “Relentless” is aggressive and has a solid right hand, but he will not be able to get the better of exchanges with Saffiedine. Instead of attempting to get into a slugfest, Bowling should look to limit Saffiedine’s offense by pressuring his opponent and forcing tie-ups. It will not be an easy task, as the Team Quest product can disrupt Bowling’s timing by switching stances, making it difficult to find openings for takedowns.
Saffiedine blends movement and angles well into a multi-faceted arsenal that includes punch-kick combinations, knees and elbows. The Belgian has never been finished in his 15-fight professional career, and he is adept at transitioning to submission attempts once he recognizes he has an opening.
The Pick: Bowling will need to make this more of a grinding affair to give himself a chance to win. He is capable of closing distance quickly, but he risks getting caught with a well-placed counter for his efforts, especially considering his tendency to throw wide punches. Saffiedine wins by TKO stoppage or submission in round three.
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