You might recall Tyler Stinson (22-7) from his four-fight foray in the Bellator promotion, where he was triangle choked by Dan Hornbuckle and Steve Carl but picked up wins over Leonardo Pecanha and Nate James. He's fresh off a fifteen-second knockout of Eduardo Pamplona in his Strikeforce debut, which snapped the Black House fighter's ten-fight win streak. The way that Stinson started out in MMA is best told in his own words. From his Strikeforce.com profile page:
I started watching the first season of TUF with my buddy Jake and we thought, "we could do that". So we bought some cheap boxing gloves and started sparring in our kitchen. A couple days later I found a website for an Oklahoma promotion called Masters of the Cage. They had a "fighter application" and so I filled it out, and lied about everything as far as training. I said I had been training in boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu. But I couldn't even tell you where a gym was back then. They called me the next day and offered me a pro fight at middleweight that upcoming weekend.
Tarec Saffiedine is a Team Quest product who is originally from Belgium and has been steadily attracting attention as a young (age 24) and noteworthy (11-3) prospect. He holds a black belt in Shihaishinkai Karate, an art that combines striking, Judo throws and ground work, and later rounded out his foundation with Thai fights and grappling competitions.
Saffidiene won six of his first seven fights -- five by submission -- to get the call from DREAM for two fights in 2009. He defeated Seichi Ikemoto by decision and then nearly upset middleweight and Olympic-level Judoka Dong Sik Yoon, who eked out a split decision. He's won four of his five subsequent bouts: beating James Terry (decision), Nate Moore (KO), Brock Larson (decision at Shark Fights 13) and Scott Smith (decision) but falling to the wrestling prowess of Tyron Woodley (decision) on the Challengers 13 card.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
It just doesn't feel right to analyze Saffiedine without starting with the Brazilian kick (right). It's a highly creative technique popularized by kickboxer Glaube Feitosa that I think we'll be seeing more often in MMA, and Saffiedine unrolls it effortlessly here.
Though not heralded for his power (one career TKO), Saffiedine has dynamic stand up, his footwork and defense are excellent and he's dangerous with both his hands and feet. Thus far, his chin has been solid and he's been tough to put away with all of his losses coming by way of decision.
To the left "The Sponge" shows how natural and fluid he is in unleashing his kicks. The spinning back kick is no longer a rare delicacy in MMA, but it is somewhat uncommon to set it up with a jab and uncork it in the pocket this effortlessly.
Also, there are generally some telltale signs that the kick is coming in the footwork beforehand, but Saffidiene cloaks it well with the jab. What stands out the most is how he maintains his balance throughout the kick, which is always a nice indicator of striking prowess.
As with the spinning kick above, there's nothing audacious about throwing a standing elbow.
However, it is somewhat unusual to integrate it into a standing combination so seamlessly, and what I really appreciate about this sequence is the trajectory of the strike.
Notice how Saffiedine distinctly drops his shoulders and lowers his stance after plunging the jab, which seems to be the start of a common uppercut. Saffiedine changes gears and torques the elbow over the top of Smith's defense beautifully.
Stinson is a spidery welterweight at 6'3" with a long reach that complements his boxing combinations nicely.
To the left is Stinson making quick work of Pamplona with vicious hand-work. The southpaw tags him early with a crisp left hand and then snipes away with two more, dropping Pamplona with a shovel punch and pouncing with a hammer-fist to finish the job. The animation shows deadly precision and you can clearly see the massive extension he gets on his punches with his considerable reach.
He closes out another poor soul with a violent series of left hands in the sequence below.
Stinson prefers to handle all of his business on the feet with fifteen of his twenty-two wins coming by TKO. Though he's compiled five submission victories, he has an equal number of submission losses, leaving his grappling defense as a little suspect.
Saffidiene's striking is more polished and proven, but I expect Stinson's power and gangly reach to cause him some problem. Plus, Stinson is a scrapper to the core, he's highly aggressive and will absolutely not be intimidated by Saffiedine's status.
As much as I'd love to see the pair trade hands for all three rounds, Saffiedine would be well advised to employ the wrestling game he's been sharpening at Team Quest and riddle Stinson with submission attempts on the mat. That's where his clear advantage lies and jousting on the feet is just playing with fire when it comes to Stinson, who has nothing to lose in this bout and will take it to Saffiedine right out of the gate.
Someone is likely to score an upset on this card and this could be it. Saffiedine has shown he can take a punch and I think his chances will drastically increase by falling back to his ground game if the standing battle is not to his liking.
My Prediction: Tarec Saffiedine by submission.
Saffiedine gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com
Stinson gifs via Caposa