Tarec Saffiedine leg kicks his way to victory in UFC debut

Tarec Saffiedine punches Lim Hyun Gyu
Tarec Saffiedine defeated Lim Hyun Gyu by unanimous decision.
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Damon Martin

Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the sport since 2004. His work has been published in CNN, Bleacher Report, MMAWeekly.com, Yahoo! Sports, UFC.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He also co-hosts The Great Debate Radio MMA podcast, and has appeared on ESPN Radio and SportsNet Radio. Follow him on Twitter.


It's taken former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine a year to finally make his UFC debut, but he quickly reminded everyone why he was a highly touted prospect with his first win in the Octagon over Hyun Gyu Lim.

Last January as Strikeforce was about to close its doors for the final time, Saffiedine was a fighter on the outside looking in. He wasn't expected to make the jump from there to the UFC unless he could somehow pull off the improbable and beat then champion Nate Marquardt on the promotion's final card.

Saffiedine proved that night he belonged among the elite in the UFC with a blistering performance that included turning Marquardt's lead leg into a bruised mess after a series of devastating kicks over the course of five rounds.

For his UFC debut, Saffiedine employed a similar game plan to chop down 6'3" Korean Hyun Gyu Lim. While Lim had some advantages early using his size and power, Saffiedine kept chopping away at his opponent's lead leg and by the third round it was clearly working like magic.

Time and again, Saffiedine fired off a leg kick and Lim fell to the ground in agony. In a bizarre move, however, Saffiedine decided in each exchange where Lim hit the mat to follow him there and engage in a grappling match instead of inviting his opponent back to the feet where he was clearly winning the fight.

Each time Lim dropped to the canvas is pain there was evidence that the fight could have been stopped, but to his credit the third time UFC fighter wasn't giving up. In the fifth round with Saffiedine on cruise control, Lim almost made him pay for it.

With time winding down, Lim threw everything he had at Saffiedine and actually hurt him as the 10 second clap rang out. Saffiedine went into pure survival mode as Lim continued to unload a barrage of strikes, but it was too little, too late as the final horn sounded giving the former Strikeforce champion his first UFC win.

"I was pretty hurt, he got me with a good punch," Saffiedine said after the judges returned a unanimous decision in his favor. "I got dizzy a little bit but I was able to recover."

Saffiedine (15-3) gets the win but still ends up with some harsh criticism over his performance after failing to finish Lim (12-4) and almost paying for it in the fifth and final round. Still, the former Strikeforce champion was able to get a victory after a year off dealing with injuries and making it through his first fight inside the Octagon, which can be a nerve rattling experience.

Now Saffiedine just looks forward to the future where he hopes to prove he belongs among the best welterweights in the world.

"I want to fight the top fighter, top ten in the UFC," Saffiedine said. "I'm ready to face those guy, and I can't wait to get back to the gym and train for those guys."

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