UFC Fight Night 34: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine picked up a win in his Octagon debut at UFC Fight Night 34 on Saturday.
Originally booked to meet Jake Ellenberger, "Sponge" ultimately competed against replacement adversary Hyun Gyu Lim on the UFC Fight Pass-aired fight card. Battering the Korean with leg kicks over the first four rounds, Saffiedine was able to coast to a decision victory as he faded in the fifth stanza.
UFC Fight Night 34 also saw Japanese MMA star Tatsuya Kawajiri step into the Octagon for the first time in his career. Facing a dangerous prospect in Sean Soriano, "The Crusher" was able to pick up his first UFC win over the weekend.
As the UFC closes the books on its first 2014 fight card, here is a look at what should be next for Saffiedine, Kawajiri and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 34 competitors.
Jon Delos Reyes vs. Leandro Issa
Jon Delos Reyes and Leandro Issa both came up empty in their UFC debuts on Saturday.
Facing a more experienced fighter in Dustin Kimura, Reyes was caught in an armbar only minutes into his first showing inside the Octagon. Issa lasted longer, but he was put to sleep by a Russell Doane triangle choke in the closing seconds of the second round.
If both fighters are given another shot to prove themselves in the world's top MMA promotion, a roster-trimmer between Reyes and Issa is a possibility.
Tae Hyun Bang vs. Rashid Magomedov-Tony Martin Loser
Another UFC newcomer to compete on Saturday, Tae Hyun Bang was unable to get anything going offensively.
Mairbek Taisumov scored four takedowns over three rounds against Bang, who landed only 24 total strikes over 15 minutes. Despite the poor showing, Bang should get another opportunity to do work inside the Octagon.
Assuming he does, the Korean could be battling for his job opposite the loser of a UFC 169 matchup between fellow UFC debutants Rashid Magomedov and Tony Martin.
Royston Wee vs. Dustin Kimura
Despite carrying only two MMA fights into his first UFC appearance, Royston Wee remained undefeated at UFC Fight Night 34 in front of his home fans.
The Singapore native recorded five takedowns and spent more than 13 minutes in top control over three rounds. While it was a solid start to his UFC career, Wee clearly has some improving to do, as he spent too much time resting in Dave Galera's guard and not enough time attacking.
A bout with skilled grappler Kimura, who submitted Reyes on Saturday, would provide Wee with a much-needed examination. In preparing for Kimura, Wee would need to focus heavily on advancing his grappling abilities.
Katsunori Kikuno vs. Mairbek Taisumov
At UFC Fight Night 34, Katsunori Kikuno and Mairbek Taisumov kicked off their UFC careers with comfortable decision wins.
Kikuno damaged Quinn Mulhern's eye early on and took advantage of his opponent's defensiveness as the fight went along, spending more than eight minutes on top. As a result of his loss to Kikuno, Mulhern will likely be released from the UFC roster following an 0-2 run with the organization.
Austrian lightweight Taisumov, meanwhile, met a fellow UFC newcomer on Saturday. Against Tae Hyun Bang, the 25-year-old scored several takedowns to earn a fourth straight victory.
Now looking to climb the ranks in the UFC's 155-pound division, Kikuno and Taisumov could meet with a step up in competition up for grabs.
Max Holloway vs. Charles Oliveira-Andy Ogle Winner
Following back-to-back decision losses, Max Holloway was in need of a win on Saturday.
Utilizing precision striking despite being at a reach disadvantage, Holloway was able to get back into the win column opposite Will Chope. Midway through the second frame, Holloway began teeing off and finished Chope with punches.
Many believe the 22-year-old has huge potential in the featherweight division, but he's been a bit slow to rise to the top.
Similarly, 24-year-old Charles Oliveira has suffered some setbacks as he's looked to fulfill lofty expectations. If Oliveira beats Andy Ogle at UFC Fight Night 36, he could meet Holloway in a bout that would ensure one popular prospect a step up.
Shunichi Shimizu vs. Dave Galera
On Saturday, UFC newcomers Shunichi Shimizu and Galera both saw five-fight winning streaks snapped.
Ragdolled by Kyung Ho Kang at UFC Fight Night 34, Shimizu may want to consider a move to 125 pounds following his submission loss. Like Shimizu, Galera was taken down multiple times in his bout with Wee and ended up losing in a decision.
Should Shimizu remain at 135 pounds, he could meet Galera in a bout that would see both men fighting for their UFC lives.
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Russell Doane
Kang and Doane both picked up their first UFC wins on Saturday.
After failing to pick up a win in his first two Octagon appearances, Kang needed a victory at UFC Fight Night 34 and got one by submitting Shimizu in the final round. Earlier on the fight card, Doane also picked up a win on the ground, sleeping Issa as the horn sounded at the end of the second stanza.
The bantamweights should be ready to go again at around the same time, so a fight between Kang and Doane seems like a real possibility.
Luiz Dutra vs. Joe Proctor-Cristiano Marcello Loser
Luiz Dutra didn't do himself any favors by being disqualified in his first UFC fight following an appearance on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2.
Facing Kiichi Kunimoto, Dutra landed repeated elbows to the back of his opponent's head during the first round. When Kunimoto was unable to continue, the Brazilian was named a loser in his first official outing under the UFC banner.
In most cases, Dutra would be released following a loss in his UFC debut, since he did not reach the TUF final. However, because he really beat himself on Saturday, Dutra might get another loser-leaves-town matchup.
Assuming he does, "Besouro" will likely move to 155 pounds, as he was planning to do prior to Saturday, and meet the loser of a UFC Fight Night 36 matchup between Joe Proctor and Cristiano Marcello.
Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Marcelo Guimaraes
Kunimoto picked up a disqualification win on Saturday, but it likely won't do much to move him upward in the welterweight division.
Before he had a chance to get going, Kunimoto was blasted with elbows to the back of his head by Dutra. Unable to recover, Kunimoto was named the winner due to illegal blows from his Brazilian adversary.
In MMA, a win isn't always a win.
Most likely, Kunimoto will still be matched up with another low-level 170-pounder. Coming off a loss, Marcelo Guimaraes could be next for the 32-year-old.
Sean Soriano vs. Will Chope
Soriano and Chope looked like promising additions to the featherweight division heading into UFC Fight Night 34, but both showed they still have some work to do.
Facing a highly ranked Kawajiri, Soriano was unable to remain standing and ultimately suffered a submission loss in the second round. Also stopped in the second stanza, Chope was unable to make use of his reach advantage against Holloway.
The UFC will want to ensure one of these 145-pound prospects gets into the win column, so a bout between the two now seems logical.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Darren Elkins-Jeremy Stephens Winner
At 35 years old, Kawajiri finally made his UFC debut on Saturday.
Making up for lost time, Kawajiri looked excellent against highly touted prospect Soriano. The much more experienced Kawajiri scored five takedowns and eventually submitted his opponent with a rear-naked choke in the second round.
Considered one of the best competing outside the Octagon for years, Kawajiri is ready to move upward quickly. A bout with the winner of a UFC on Fox 10 matchup between Darren Elkins and Jeremy Stephens would give the Japanese MMA star a chance to vault into title contention.
Hyun Gyu Lim vs. Jordan Mein
Lim failed to capitalize on a huge opportunity at UFC Fight Night 34, but he showed he's more than an average welterweight prospect on Saturday.
The Korean was battered by Saffiedine's leg kicks, but he displayed incredible toughness and even gave his opponent a scare as the fight came to an end. Despite his late rally, Lim did lose by decision, marking his first defeat inside the Octagon.
An exciting fighter who has the potential to become a contender, Lim deserves another big matchup. A bout with Jordan Mein could help the UFC ensure one fresh welterweight face gets back on track and positions himself for a shot at a highly ranked 170-pounder.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Jake Ellenberger
Before Lim filled in, Saffiedine was scheduled to fight Jake Ellenberger at the top of the UFC Fight Night 34 fight card.
While Saffiedine wasn't able to finish the Korean on Saturday, he unleashed the leg kicks that made him Strikeforce welterweight champion. Still a legitimate contender in the welterweight division, Saffiedine can expect a notable name for his next match.
Since Ellenberger is still without a scheduled bout, it may be possible for the UFC to simply re-book a fight between Saffiedine and "The Juggernaut" should Saturday's main-event winner be capable of making a relatively quick turnaround.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.