Tarec Saffiedine survives onslaught

Originally Published: January 4, 2014
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

Tarec Saffiedine's display of skill beat out Hyun Gyu Lim's display of heart.

One year after claiming the final Strikeforce welterweight title, Saffiedine (15-3) finally made his UFC debut, earning a unanimous decision win over Lim (12-4-1) at UFC Fight Night 34 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore.

Saffiedine outstruck Lim 180-to-111, according to Fightmetric. Judges scored the five-round main event 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 for Saffiedine.

"I want to fight the Top 10 of the UFC," said Saffiedine, immediately after the bout. "I'm ready to face those guys and I can't wait to get back in and train for them."

Injury prevented Saffiedine from fighting more than once in 2013, but rust didn't appear to be an issue as he picked Lim apart for the better part of a 25-minute fight.

By the end of the third round, Lim could barely stand on his lead left leg, thanks to a steady game plan of leg kicks by Saffiedine.

There was no quit in the South Korean welterweight, however, as Lim rallied on one good leg to hurt Saffiedine in the final round. With seconds remaining in the fight, Lim landed a right hand to Saffiedine's chin and swarmed him until the final bell.

"I was pretty hurt," Saffiedine admitted.

"He got me with a good punch. I got dizzy a little bit. I know he's a great fighter. He's really tough. I have great coaches. I had a great game plan and I stuck to it."

Lim looked good in the opening round -- as it was the only time he was able to effectively counter the outside leg kick. He knocked Saffiedine down twice with a well timed straight right, although both times Saffiedine popped right back up.

Those successful counters did little to discourage Saffiedine from relying on the leg kick. He found his range in the second round and Lim's mobility started to visibly deteriorate. Lim's corner implored him not to quit between the third and fourth.

Lim came out aggressively in the fourth, blitzing Saffiedine with three and four-punch combinations -- but there just wasn't much behind his punches anymore.

Saffiedine calmly responded with a knee to the midsection and then a double flying knee along the fence, which dropped Lim and nearly ended the fight.

Amazingly, it was Lim who seemed to have a mental advantage in the final round, as Saffiedine circled and frequently looked at the clock. The late flurry by Lim drew a response from the crowd but it wasn't enough to get him back in the fight.

Lim suffers his first loss in the Octagon and first since February 2009. The 28-year-old won his first two UFC fights by knockout.

Saffiedine extends his win streak to five.

Veteran Kawajiri proves too wily for Soriano

A longtime staple of Japanese mixed martial arts, Tatsuya Kawajiri submitted Sean Soriano in his long-awaited UFC debut and is already thinking title shot in 2014.

Kawajiri (33-7-2) choked Soriano unconscious in the second round, when referee Steve Perceval inexplicably missed Soriano's tap to the rear-naked choke. The official time of the finish was recorded at the 50-second mark.

"Hello America, hello USA," Kawajiri shouted, before mentioning a world title shot.

[+] EnlargeKawajiri/Soriano
Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty ImagesTatsuya Kawajiri's experience came into play during his bout with the relatively green Sean Soriano.

Kawajiri, 35, has graced the lightweight Top 10 rankings numerous times in a career that dates back to 2000. In his first UFC appearance, he drew the undefeated 24-year-old Soriano, who had just eight pro fights.

Soriano (8-1) was up to the challenge early. He defended Kawajiri's takedown attempts and displayed strong hips in the scramble.

More than once, he landed a hard knee up the middle as Kawajiri reset. Those knees didn't force Kawajiri to back off, though. The veteran ground-and-pounder continued to move relentlessly forward.

He took Soriano down midway through the first round, then flattened him out and landed punches from the back.

The spring in Soriano's step was gone by the second round, as Kawajiri got him down quickly, immediately took his back and produced the tap.

When asked which UFC featherweight he wanted next, Kawajiri requested someone "stronger" than Soriano, before adding he was surprised, "Soriano was so good."

The Japanese featherweight's last loss was to Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce 155-pound title in April 2011.

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