It took former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine a year since his final Strikeforce fight to make his UFC debut, but it was surely a memorable fight when he faced Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC Singapore on Saturday.
Lim opened the fight strong, doing a good job early on catching a Saffiedine kick and following with a counter right hand that put Saffiedine on the mat. The former Strikeforce champ quickly returned to his feet and started to work his strategy of employing his jab and landing leg kicks to Lim’s lead leg.
Saffiedine found some moderate success by the end of the first round, but then really started to get into a groove in the second stanza. He started landing both the jab and the leg kicks with greater frequency, quickly starting to mount damage to Lim’s left leg.
By the third round, the damage was visible, Saffiedine continually attacking the leg, much like he did in defeating Nate Marquardt to win the Strikeforce belt. He dropped Lim several times in the third and fourth rounds.
He spiced things up in the fourth frame, doubling Lim over with a knee to the body and then dropping him with a jumping knee to the head, but the Korean fighter wouldn’t stay down.
Barely able to stand, Lim came out strong in the final round, taking the fight to Saffiedine only to have his leg kicked out from under him again. Lim wouldn’t quit though, continually returning to his feet.
He screamed and kept plodding forward the best he could, and unleashed a final desperate flurry late in the round, rocking Saffiedine and sending him staggering across the Octagon.
“I was pretty hurt. He hit me with a good punch,” Saffiedine remarked after the fight.
But Saffiedine clung to Lim, pulling him close to avoid taking any more punishment and survive the round.
It was a dominant performance that was nearly upset in the end, but Saffiedine secured his first victory in the Octagon, winning the unanimous nod from the judges (49-46, 48-47, 48-47).
“He’s very tough. He got prepared for me. He’s a great fighter,” said Saffiedine, giving his opponent his due, before adding that he would like to next step up to fighting a Top 10 ranked opponent.
“I want to fight the top fighter; top ten in the UFC,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back in the gym and train for those guys.”