Nearly 12 months since he became the final Strikeforce welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine will finally step into the Octagon. Originally scheduled to meet Jake Ellenberger, Saffiedine will now headline UFC Fight Night 34 opposite South Korean prospect Hyun Gyu Lim.
Although Lim has not met an opponent on Saffiedine's level, he's looked like a fighter with big potential, with knockouts in his first two UFC appearances. Competing much closer to home than Saffiedine, Lim may have the crowd on his side as he looks to shock everyone on Saturday.
This bout will either give Saffiedine a chance to introduce himself to UFC fans with a tune-up win or provide Lim a springboard into 170-pound title contention.
Here is a closer look at how Saffiedine and Lim match up in all areas.
Hyun Gyu Lim's wild striking has been enough against non-ranked UFC welterweights, but the Korean will receive a rude awakening should he come out throwing haymakers against No. 10 welterweight contender Tarec Saffiedine on Saturday.
Having landed 116 significant strikes against Nate Marquardt, Saffiedine is much more technical than the aggressive Lim. While Lim could always catch Saffiedine with something, the former Strikeforce champion will likely be able to pick the Korean apart should this fight last longer than a round.
Lim may have devastating power, especially with his knees, but the unlikely headliner leaves himself open too often. Marcelo Guimaraes and Pascal Krauss were both stopped by Lim, but the Korean's past two opponents landed some hard shots before going down.
With only one knockout win in his MMA career, Saffiedine may have trouble putting Lim away, but he should be able to land frequently and meaningfully.
Tarec Saffiedine only scored more takedowns than an opponent once during his Strikeforce run. However, on Saturday, Saffiedine might benefit from utilizing his wrestling more frequently.
As he tends to get wild when standing, Hyun Gyu Lim frequently leaves openings for takedowns. Marcelo Guimaraes scored two takedowns against the Korean at UFC on Fuel TV 8, revealing a hole in Lim's game that Saffiedine could use to eliminate the puncher's chance this weekend.
In his first two UFC appearances, Lim's only takedown came off a caught kick against Pascal Krauss.
The 28-year-old isn't likely going to try to ground Saffiedine unless he has a takedown handed to him on a silver platter. Even if wrestling was a big part of Lim's game plan, Saffiedine was only out-wrestled twice over seven Strikeforce outings.
Neither Tarec Saffiedine nor Hyun Gyu Lim has spent much time on the canvas recently.
Both have been relatively successful with standing quickly after being taken down, while the welterweights also haven't regularly been able to control their adversaries on the ground.
All Saffiedine's five submission wins came against low-level competition prior to his Strikeforce career, but the Belgian has also never been submitted. That's not something Lim can say, as he was forced to tap twice prior to his UFC signing.
With both fighters preferring to stand, it's unlikely this fight will go to the ground often. However, Saffiedine is more likely to score points on the ground than Lim.
While Tarec Saffiedine appears to have an edge in skill across the board, Hyun Gyu Lim does have one thing going for him.
The Korean has fought twice since Saffiedine last appeared. Inactive since a January 2013 win over Nate Marquardt, Saffiedine may have to shake off some rust early on in this matchup. A slow start from the former Strikeforce champion could be just what Lim needs to land a big shot early on.
Saffiedine is more experienced when it comes to competing in big fights. Now that Lim has a few UFC fights under his belt, though, that inexperience shouldn't have nearly as much an impact as 12 months of inactivity could.
A bout between Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger would have provided a clear picture on where the former Strikeforce champion stands among welterweight title contenders.
Unfortunately, it appears Saffiedine will now be eased into UFC competition against Hyun Gyu Lim. Although Lim has some serious potential, he's not been tested to this degree during his MMA career.
More than likely, this will serve as a learning experience for Lim, whose chances of winning this matchup seem to rely on landing something wild.
Saffiedine takes care of business with more patient, technical striking and even a takedown or two over five rounds.
Prediction: Saffiedine defeats Lim by unanimous decision.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.