It went largely as expected for the UFC's first foray into Singapore and on the new UFC Fight Pass streaming service as former Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine earned a unanimous decision victory over Hyun Gyu Lim in the main event of UFC Fight Night 34 at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.
Still, Saffiedine didn't escape entirely unscathed.
In the first round, Saffiedine moved on the outside, changing strances and angles, focusing on Lim's lead left leg with his own trademark leg kicks. Saffiedine was eventually pushed off balance and fell to his back, but quickly returned to his feet. Lim did find a few instances of going to the body, both with middle kicks and driving knees as Saffiedine closed the distance. The right hand was also a problem for Saffiedine, as Lim landed it as a counter to his kicks and at the end of combinations.
Lim continued to apply forward pressure in the second with Saffiedine willing to work from the outside. In the course of three exchanges, however, Saffiedine found his range, cracking Lim with three hard right hands that temporarily stumbled the Korean fighter. Saffiedine also continued to chip away at Lim's lead leg, this time with far fewer counters as Lim was made to miss while Saffiedine expertly managed distance.
A two-punch combo dropped Lim to start the third round, but Lim quickly got back to his feet. It was all for naught though as Saffiedine set up a double leg off of a right hand that put Lim on the canvas. In a scramble, Saffiedine over pursued the back and fell off, but managed to climb back to his feet for the two to continue their striking affair. This was the point where the beginning of the end felt near, however, as Saffiedine dropped Lim twice with positively crushing leg kicks. Saffiedine even celebrated early the second time Lim collapsed, but referee Leon Roberts did not not stop the contest, forcing the Belgian fighter to continue his efforts.
By round four, Lim appeared to be in horrible shape to start the frame and Saffiedine left him no quarters. Saffiedine went right to work on the lead left leg again, leaving Lim in visible distress every time the punishing strike landed. With his defenses down and in clear anguish with his back against the fence, Saffiedine scored with a series of other strikes including a flying knee after a body shot that sent Lim to the mat. Saffiedine controlled him there and even attempted a head and arm triangle from mount, but couldn't finish.
Saffiedine didn't waste any time in the fifth, cracking Lim with hard outside leg kicks, but there was no quit in Lim, who managed to fire back with anything he could throw, including right hands and knees to the body. Saffiedine dropped Lim again with a leg kick, but didn't follow the Korean fighter to the mat, instead forcing him to stand. Lim was undeterred, however, walking Saffiedine down, which somehow worked. Just before the end of the frame, Lim screamed, then badly wobbled the Team Quest fighter. He followed with a huge flurry just before the final bell, but the former Strikeforce champion was able to hang on, literally, just behind Lim against the fence as the round expired.
In the end, too much of the offense belonged to Saffiedine even if Lim had his occasional moments. The judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, 48-47, all for Saffiedine.
"I was pretty hurt," Saffiedine said of Lim's late flurry. "He caught me with a good punch. I got dizzy a little bit, but I was able to recover.
"He was really tough. He got prepared for me. He's a great fighter."
As for what's next, Saffiedine was unambiguous. "I want to fight the top fighter, top 10 in the UFC. I want to fight those guys. I can't wait to get back in the gym and train for those guys."
In the co-main event, MMA fan favorite Tatsuya Kawajiri made his UFC debut, one that didn't disappoint his legion of hardcore MMA fans.
Kawajiri struggled early with Sean Soriano as the American used effective movement and well-rehearsed takedown defense, giving the Japanese fighter all kinds of issues as he tried to take the fight to the mat. Kawajiri continued to apply pressure and eventually forced the bout to the mat from a trip, taking the back of the Blackzillian fighter and even attempted a few rear naked choke attempts, but failed as they were largely cranks. From there the complexion of the round changed dramatically as Kawajiri used a body triangle to attack Soriano from his back with strikes and eventually mount before the round expired.
In the second frame, the takedown came right away for Kawajiri and while the rear naked choke attempt didn't work for the Japanese fighter in the first frame, it did in the second. Soriano tapped, but referee Steve Perceval didn't see it, which allowed Soriano to go to sleep.
The end came officially at :50 of the second frame.
Kunimoto attempted a takedown early, but couldn't get much going. After circling and light exchanges, Kunimoto put Dutra's back on the fence again, but this time ate a series of elbows that clearly appeared to be illegally to the back of the Japanese fighter's head. Referee John Sharp immediately halted the action, brought in ringside physicians with translators, but Kunimoto was unable to continue. The referee ultimately disqualified Dutra, giving Kunimoto the win. The end came officially at 2:57 of the very first round.
Kang locked up mounted triangle early in the first round and kept it through the scramble, but was deducted two points by referee Steve Perceval for 12 to 6 elbows from the position, although he was not given a warning. The two went back to work after a brief respite and Shimizu absorbed what appeared to be an illegal groin kick until the referee determined it was not. By the time they resumed action, however, the round ended soon thereafter.
In the second round, Kang defended the takedown against the fence, but put Shimizu on his back with a hard knee. From the leg drag position, Kang moved to mount where he landed crushing elbows using the grapevine as an anchor to hold position. Still, Shimizu waited for Kang's base to lean backwards, which allowed him to sit up and reverse position. Kang managed to scoot back to the fence, stand and re-take Shimizu back to the ground. Kang finished out the round there with strikes from top position.
By the third frame, Shimizu began the frame a bit more offensive, but couldn't get much going. Kang reversed Shimizu off an unfinished takedown attempt by the Japanese fighter and went right to work. The Korean fighter scored punishing ground and pound using hammering elbows and relentless punches. With almost a minute left in the round, Kang moved to mount where he quickly locked up the head and arm triangle submission. The end came officially at 3:53 in the final round.
Be sure to catch up on all of the preliminary card results and anything else you may have missed.