Strikeforce Results: 5 Fights for Tarec Saffiedine in the UFC
With Strikeforce officially closing their doors on Saturday night, many fighters from the organization are concerned with whether or not they still have a job.
Newly-minted welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine has no such worries, as his impressive victory over Nate Marquardt Saturday night guaranteed the Belgian a spot on the UFC's roster.
Entering the UFC as the final Strikeforce champion will allow Saffiedine the opportunity to jump into some high-profile fights that he wouldn't be otherwise afforded.
There are plenty of opinions on where "Sponge" fits into the hyper-competitive UFC welterweight division, but only a few of them truly make sense.
Here is a look at five fights for Tarec Saffiedine to take in his UFC debut.
Winner of Dong Hyun Kim vs. Siyar Bahadurzada
This fight may seem a bit low for the Strikeforce champion. However, it's important to note that he wasn't a member of the division's top 25 as of yesterday morning. If the UFC wants Saffiedine to succeed, slow-rolling him toward the top is the best way to go.
Until he ran into the likes of Carlos Condit and Demian Maia, Dong Hyun Kim was considered one of the hottest prospects at 170 pounds. With a UFC record of 7-2-1, the judoka is set to take on heavy-handed knockout artist Siyar "The Great" Bahadurzada.
Bahadurzada has somewhat taken over Kim's status as dark-horse contender in the division. When he debuted last April against highly regarded Paulo Thiago, no one could have expected the sort of devastation that lay in Bahadurzada's hands.
Only 42 seconds into his UFC career, The Great had his first UFC win over a man who went the distance with Diego Sanchez, Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann.
When this fight goes down on March 3 at UFC on FUEL 8, the winner will be near the top 10 and in line for a step up in competition.
Winner of Jon Fitch vs. Demian Maia
Status is important in the UFC. The fact that Saffiedine is the reigning Strikeforce champion makes him a big target for anyone hoping to challenge for UFC gold in the future.
Enter Jon Fitch and Demian Maia.
Fitch has long been considered a top contender for the UFC welterweight championship, but is still rebuilding his status after a loss to Johny Hendricks in 2011. Meanwhile, Maia is a former title challenger at middleweight who has made major waves since dropping to 170 pounds.
Whoever wins this clash between top-10 welterweights will be looking for a high-profile opponent while waiting for the GSP/Nick Diaz/Johny Hendricks triangle to play itself out.
Winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Carlos Condit
When Carlos Condit meets Rory MacDonald at UFC 158, fans will see the man who came closer to dethroning GSP than anyone else versus the heir apparent to the welterweight crown.
For Rory "Ares" MacDonald, a contest against Saffiedine will be the closest he gets to a title fight as long as teammate Georges St-Pierre holds the UFC championship. However, it's no safe bet that he gets past Condit, who gave Ares the sole loss of his budding career back in 2010.
For Carlos Condit, he will need a few solid wins before being allowed to once again challenge for the UFC championship. A win over MacDonald and another over Saffiedine is a solid step towards obtaining that goal.
While I firmly believe that both of these fights are a mismatch for Saffiedine, I felt the same way about the final Strikeforce main event, so what do I know?
For the sake of this slide, I'm going to assume that Georges St-Pierre defeats Nick Diaz at UFC 158. Is it really that much of a reach?
Tarec Saffiedine versus Nick Diaz would make for an interesting matchup based on their history with Strikeforce. Both men left the Strikeforce organization with the welterweight championship firmly around their waists, having never lost their championship.
In the event that Diaz loses to GSP, he will need a fight that allows him to show off what makes him so effective: a stand-up battle. There aren't many non-wrestlers near the top of the UFC's welterweight division, so these two are practically meant for each other.
Who better than a quick fighter with championship accolades who is willing to engage in a striking battle?
In the event that the UFC really wants to push the Strikeforce champions all at once, we could be looking at title fights for Tarec Saffiedine, Gilbert Melendez and Luke Rockhold.
Personally, with the lack of ratings that the lightweight title has drawn on pay-per-view, I think it would be a solid move to do a double main event with Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez and GSP vs. Saffiedine on the same card.
This is not a fight that I feel Saffiedine has earned, but he could find himself as the best available option depending on how UFC 158 shakes out.
If Johny Hendricks comes up short against Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald shuts down Carlos Condit, there is no clear-cut contender for the title after GSP/Diaz. Why not cash in on the luster of a title unification fight?