Tarec Saffiedine's busted up Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC Fight Night 34. | Photo: James Goyder/Sherdog.com
Hyun Gyu Lim may not return to a normal gait for quite some time. Such was the price of a five-round encounter with Tarec Saffiedine.
Saffiedine unleashed a merciless stream of leg kicks and survived a harrowing fifth-round exchange, as he captured a unanimous decision over the Korean Top Team export in the UFC Fight Night 34 main event on Saturday at the Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore. All three judges saw it for Saffiedine, casting 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 scores in his favor.
Lim seemed to gain an early advantage with his relentless forward movement and a stout counter right hand. However, Saffiedine slowly took control, and by the third round, he had reduced the South Korean to one good leg, limiting his movement and sapping his punching power. Lim, who hit the deck more than once in the 25-minute scrap, made one final stand in the fifth round, where he set the former Strikeforce champion on shaky legs with a couple of knee strikes and a wild punching burst. Saffiedine, though clearly dazed, mustered enough resolve to close the distance and maintain a clinch until the horn sounded.
Saffiedine may soon become the matchup no one wants at 170 pounds, particularly in a five-round fight, where his measured approach and surgical skills serve him well. The 27-year-old Belgian was originally paired with Jake Ellenberger before a hamstring injury forced the world-ranked welterweight to withdraw. A showdown with “The Juggernaut” appears to make even more sense now that Saffiedine has his feet planted firmly beneath him inside the Octagon.
The loss halted Lim’s seven-fight winning streak but made his presence in the division no less welcome. His size, aggressive nature and refusal to yield will make him a fighter worth watching over the next several years, especially with the Ultimate Fighting Championship delving more deeply into the Asian market. For now, he figures to return to the regular rotation, perhaps against the loser of the forthcoming UFC 171 clash between Rick Story and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum on March 15.
In the wake of UFC Fight Night 34, here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Dennis Siver: Kawajiri thrilled hardcore MMA fans across the globe in his promotional debut, as he submitted Blackzilians prospect Sean Soriano with a second-round rear-naked choke in the co-headliner. The 35-year-old former Shooto champion has quietly pieced together a six-fight winning streak since his ill-fated clash with Gilbert Melendez in April 2011. Given his history, “Crusher” could move quickly in the UFC’s 145-pound weight class. Siver has won seven of his past nine bouts, including a unanimous decision over Manny Gamburyan at UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
Katsunori Kikuno vs. Daron Cruickshank-Mike Rio winner: While it lacked the wow factor for which many had hoped, Kikuno’s first appearance inside the Octagon was a success. The onetime Deep champion capitalized on Quinn Mulhern’s desire to fight off his back, racking up points from top position after the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative repeatedly pulled guard. Kikuno, 32, has posted six straight victories since a June 2012 decision loss to Satoru Kitaoka. Cruickshank and Rio will duke it out as part of the UFC on Fox 10 lineup on Jan. 25 in Chicago.
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Bryan Caraway-Lucas Martins winner: Outside of a two-point deduction for illegal 12-to-6 elbows, Kang was virtually flawless in dispatching an overmatched Shunichi Shimizu with a third-round arm-triangle choke. Kang assaulted his Japanese counterpart with elbow-laden ground-and-pound prior to the finish and looks the part of a scary up-and-comer in the 135-pound weight class. Caraway and Martins will lock horns at UFC 170 on Feb. 22 in Las Vegas.
Sean Soriano vs. Daniel Pineda: Soriano, who filled in for the injured Hacran Dias on short notice, can consider his submission defeat to Kawajiri part of the MMA learning curve. The 24-year-old Blackzilians prospect handled himself well against one of the sport’s grizzled veterans before succumbing to takedowns and ultimately a rear-naked choke. All signs point to a bright future for Soriano, a Championship Fighting Alliance titleholder who may have left the regional circuit behind. Pineda has dropped three of his past four fights, last appearing in a unanimous decision setback to Diego Brandao at UFC Fight Night 26.
Max Holloway vs. Robbie Peralta: Still one of the youngest fighters on the UFC roster, Holloway rebounded from back-to-back losses to Dennis Bermudez and Conor McGregor with a stellar second-round finish of the 6-foot-4 Will Chope. The 22-year-old Hawaiian weathered an early burst from the newcomer, dispatching Chope with punches while bringing his 14-fight winning streak to a close. The heavy-handed Peralta last competed at UFC 168, where he roared back to defeat Arizona Combat Sports export Estevan Payan by third-round technical knockout.