UFC Fight Night 34: Grades for Every Main Card Fighter from Saffiedine vs. Lim
UFC Fight Night 34 brought a heap of Asian talent into the homes of mixed martial arts fans across the globe.
The majority of the card featured fighters who were making their UFC debuts, paving the way for crazy metrics such as this one, courtesy of @MMAStatCat:
Note: @BlessedMMA is Max Holloway
For fans in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, UFC Fight Night 34 also showcased the UFC's new digital distribution network UFC Fight Pass for the first time on a live card.
While the event possessed little in the way of star power, the fighters and Fight Pass delivered, resulting in a solid showing from top to bottom.
Let's see how the main card fighters performed.
Kyung Ho Kang: A-
Result: Kyung Ho Kang defeats Shunichi Shimizu by submission (arm-triangle choke) in Round 3.
Kyung Ho Kang looked dominant against Shunichi Shimizu at UFC Fight Night 34.
From the opening round on, it was clear that Kang held the advantage wherever the fight went, and the powerful bantamweight went to work, eventually securing a third-round finish via arm-triangle choke.
Prior to the choke, he worked some brutal ground-and-pound that busted Shimizu's face and left him bloody and beaten. Kang also put his opponent on the defensive with some nasty submission attempts in Round 1, forcing Shimizu to constantly play defense throughout the bout.
A two-point deduction in Round 1 (yes, the referee took away two points) for illegal 12-to-6 elbows cost Kang on the scorecards, but this ultimately did not matter, as he sealed the win with the late submission.
Shunichi Shimizu: C
That's Shimizu on the bottom getting punched in the face, which was a common sight throughout this fight.
While resilient, he displayed little inside the Octagon to leave an impression beyond "this guy is tough."
He showcased some nice submission defense in Round 1, but he was never able to open up and show off his full arsenal of offensive skills.
He was dominated.
Because of his inability to get going throughout the three-round affair, Shimizu earns a C.
Kiichi Kunimoto: Incomplete
Result: Kiichi Kunimoto defeats Luiz Dutra via disqualification (illegal elbows) in Round 1.
Kiichi Kunimoto ate a series of illegal elbows from Luiz Dutra in Round 1 that left him crumpled on the Octagon canvas and unable to continue.
Before that, we saw little from either fighter, so this one is impossible to score.
Until we see more from him inside the cage, Kunimoto receives an incomplete grade.
Luiz Dutra: Incomplete
The disqualification loss saddened Dutra, but the referee made the right call in this one.
Dutra's elbows were vicious and blatantly illegal, so the result was justified.
That said, he receives a pass just like Kunimoto, since we did not see much from him. Hopefully, next time he can keep it clean and flex his skills.
Tatsuya Kawajiri: A-
Result: Tatsuya Kawajiri defeats Sean Soriano via technical submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 2.
After a slow start against Sean Soriano, the old-school legend Tatsuya Kawajiri found his groove and went to work, eventually securing a second-round submission that rendered his opponent unconscious.
The finish was dramatic, and it came after a dominant showing in the later stages of Round 1. "Crusher" scored with some vicious ground-and-pound and ended the round on top.
Soriano could not rebound from this adversity, and he was put to sleep just 50 seconds into Round 2.
Positives aside, Kawajiri looked like a 35-year-old fighter with 40 professional bouts under his belt. He looked old, and he didn't appear overly explosive or athletic.
Thankfully, his grappling skills completely outclassed Soriano, and he began his UFC career on a high note.
I'm not sold on Kawajiri as a threat at featherweight just yet, and his next fight will better determine where he stands in the division.
For now...PRIDE NEVER DIE!
Or, as Bleacher Report lead writer Jonathan Snowden prefers:
Kawajiri! SHOOTO NEVER DIE!!!!!
— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) January 4, 2014
Sean Soriano: C-
Sean Soriano looked good for all of two minutes in this fight.
After scoring with some decent shots on the feet, he collapsed under the weight of Kawajiri's top game, eventually giving up his back and the fight-ending choke.
Like Shimizu before him, Soriano showcased little in the way of offense, and his submission defense appeared limited.
This was not a good showing by the Blackzilian, and he will have plenty to work on when he gets home and reviews the tape.
Tarec Saffiedine: A-
Result: Tarec Saffiedine defeats Hyun Gyu Lim via decision (unanimous).
As expected, Tarec Saffiedine employed a technical, leg-kick-heavy striking attack against Hyun Gyu Lim.
Facing a powerful slugger like Lim, Saffiedine fought the smart fight by picking his opponent apart, choosing his shots wisely and making them count when he struck.
His display of striking excellence was beautiful, and he injured Lim early with leg kicks, which altered the course of the bout.
Bleacher Report's resident striking expert Jack Slack enjoyed himself, to say the least:
That knee was gorgeous. Rapidly becoming one of my favourite stand up clinics.— Jack Slack (@JackSlackMMA) January 4, 2014
While Saffiedine outclassed Lim on the feet, he earns an A- because of his questionable decision making.
Despite crippling Lim's lead leg with kicks and dropping him on multiple occasions, Saffiedine was content to follow his opponent to the mat and grind away from top position. Instead, he should have stood up and went back to work at chopping down Lim's base.
Make no mistake: Saffiedine's performance was brilliant. I just would have preferred to see a higher fight IQ from him.
Hyun Gyu Lim: B
Hyun Gyu Lim is a man. In fact, he might be the man.
Lim's leg, as previously mentioned, was seriously injured in this fight, but he kept coming forward and charging Saffiedine at full force.
This display of heart reached its peak in the closing seconds of Round 5 when Lim chomped down on his mouthguard and threw leather at Saffiedine, clipping him and nearly finishing the fight with wild follow-up shots.
There was nothing technical or savvy about Lim's performance—this was a showing built on grit and gusto, and a lesser man would have given up after eating the heavy strikes from Saffiedine.
Thankfully, the South Korean brought everything he had to the Octagon with him, treating fans to a fast-paced, five-round bout that satisfied their craving for violence.
The bad news: Lim did not look fantastic. He was thoroughly dismantled, in fact.
Moving forward, he will need to work on adding some variety to his striking game and utilizing a more technical approach as opposed to his "haymaker-first" game plan. Until he does this, more polished strikers like Saffiedine will continue to picked him apart inside the welterweight division.
Note: All GIFs throughout this article are courtesy of Zombie Prophet, @ZProphet_MMA.