Despite having no answer for the enveloping wrestling of Tyron Woodley in his last appearance, Saffiedine is a young and skyrocketing talent on the Strikeforce roster. His first step into the mainstream spotlight came in the 2009 Dream Welterweight Grand Prix where he out-gunned the venerable Seichi Ikemoto in a tournament reserve bout. The fight was his eighth and extended his roll to six in a row, having only lost once before in his second professional match.
He then stepped up as a late replacement against Dong Sik Yoon in a middleweight contest at Dream 12. Considering he was tangling with a heavier, decorated Judoka on short notice, the split-decision loss didn't reflect too poorly on Saffiedine. The rest of his career has unfolded stateside, where he hitched three consecutive and impressive wins (James Terry and Nate Moore in Strikeforce, Brock Larson in Shark Fights) before Woodley dealt his third defeat.
Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith complements his iron fists with the heart of a lion, and epitomizes a "don't blink" type of fighter. On the brink of what seems to be imminent defeat, Smith has carved out a well deserved reputation for turning the tables with the dynamite in his hands, which serve as instant game-changers when they find the mark.
Saffiedine is a thoroughly rounded product, but will probably oblige Smith in a slug fest, making for an appetizing entree to a fully stocked fight card. The breakdown of the match up awaits below.
Showing his karate roots, to the left is Saffiedine's brilliant use of the Brazilian kick; a creative technique that Brazilian kickboxer Glaube Feitosa employed with startling effectiveness and regularity.
The leg raises off the floor like a chambered kick, but then undergoes a drastic change of trajectory in mid-flight, twisting the strike to careen around or over the top of the guard. Pulling off a kick of this magnitude with such fluid grace is a good example of the unique potential that Tarec Saffiedine brings to the table.
Unorthodox kicks will be nothing that Scott Smith hasn't encountered before. Cung Le, the Sanshou practitioner turned MMA fighter turned actor, loosened an entire library of flashy kicks in his two bouts against Smith.
They landed nearly at will in both fights, the significant difference being that Smith pulled off one of his fairy tale comebacks in the first after enduring a prolonged beating. The Hail Mary miracle is Smith's only win in his last four fights, each of which unfolded with him getting the worst of the striking exchanges.
It's worth noting that, preceding this stretch of rough road, Smith scored four knockouts since leaving the UFC in 2007. With a loss and a No Contest courtesy of Robbie Lawler sandwiched halfway in between, Smith clubbed Jeff Morris, Kyle Noke, Terry Martin and Benji Radach into unconsciousness before hitting the skids in recent outings.
It does not bode well for Scott Smith that Tarec Saffiedine has many more dimensions, and might even be better in the one dimension Smith is known for. At the time of writing, the Belgian is a strong favorite in the -240 to -260 range. Maybe it's because Smith has earned my respect or that I just don't care to see him take another loss, but my heart hopes that he can at least register a respectable performance if not another inspiring one.
As long as Saffiedine doesn't under-estimate Smith's power or determination, his footwork, angles, and diverse set of striking skills should steer him to a commanding victory. Smith's hopes lie in his ability to settle in at close range and flip the switch, but Saffiedine's cage motion and more technical stand-up relegate Smith to having a puncher's chance, and even though that's his specialty, it's too tough to rely on in the long run.
My Prediction: Tarec Saffiedine by decision
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