On Saturday, Tarec Saffiedine stepped into the Octagon for the first time in his mixed martial arts career. The moment he crossed the threshold into the cage he became the last Strikeforce transfer to make his UFC debut.
Saffiedine ended his Strikeforce run by defeating Nate Marquardt, using devastating leg kicks to take the Strikeforce welterweight title from Marquardt. Those kicks left Marquardt's left leg bruised, swollen and largely useless by the end of the January 2013 fight.
Saffiedine used those same kicks effectively early in Saturday's fight against Hyun Gyu Lim, but for reasons unknown he abandoned those kicks and decided to engage Lim on the ground. That move confused many watching the main event of UFC Fight Night 34. UFC president Dana White was among those scratching their heads at Saffiedine's decision.
Makes no sense why TS doesn't keep this standing? Fight would be over— Dana White (@danawhite) January 4, 2014
Saffiedine, appearing on Monday's MMA Hour didn't have a good reason for taking the fight to the ground when he seemed to be well on his way to incapacitating Lim with his low kicks, "I'm still asking myself why I did that," Saffiedine said. "I don't know. I think it was just in the moment. I saw him on the floor, and I tried to ground and pound him and try to end the fight that way, but it wasn't a smart move. I won't do that again. I should have waited for the ref to stand him up, and try to finish the fight like that. I guess it was just a mistake."
Despite his decision to follow Lim to the ground, Saffiedine was able to secure the unanimous decision victory. The win advanced him one spot in the UFC welterweight rankings, moving him to No. 9 in the division.
Saffiedine said the fight answered some questions for him, namely that he can last 25 minutes against a tough opponent and that he can take a punch. The latter was revealed to him when Lim put Saffiedine in trouble with strikes as the fight came to a close.
Saffiedine said of that last ditch effort from the hobbled Lim, "I don't know how he got his strength back in the fifth round, he just came back really strong and really powerful. He rocked me pretty well. I was dizzy, but I was able to see what was coming."
Saffiedine said he had two goals when he signed with the UFC. The first was to become the first Belgian fighter to win a fight in the UFC. He realized that goal on Saturday. The second goal was to become the first Belgian UFC champion.
The 15-3 Saffiedine feels that his win over Lim sets him up to face a top ranked opponent in his next contest. When discussing whom he would have on his wish list, Saffiedine mentioned Martin Kampmann, Jake Ellenberger or maybe the winner of Carlos Condit and Tyron Woodley.
Woodley and Saffiedine do have a history, with Woodley defeating Saffiedine via unanimous decision when the two met as part of the Strikeforce Challengers series in January 2011. That defeat is the only loss Saffiedine has in his last nine outings.
If he does get another crack at Woodley, Saffiedine feels that their last fight would be no indication as to how the second go round would play out. Said Saffiedine, "I'm a totally different fighter, I have improved."
There's no doubt about that, but has he improved enough to become the first UFC champion of Belgian origin? That's the most important question that Saffiedine wants to answer.
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