Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine put on a heck of a display of his stand-up skills this past weekend in Singapore, when he took home a unanimous decision victory over Hyun Gyu Lim at Ultimate Fight Night 34.
The 27-year-old Belgian fighter all but owned his larger opponent and for the most part, beat the 28 South Korean from pillar to post.
Yet, for as good as his victory was many fans believed that it could have decisive; that Tarec could have finished the fight.
To the point, many fans, UFC President Dana White included, were left scratching their heads as to why Sponge elected to take the contest to the ground , when he was not only clearly winning it on the feet, but also appeared to be within a few leg strikes of kicking Lim right out of the fight:
Makes no sense why TS doesn't keep this standing? Fight would be over— Dana White (@danawhite) January 4, 2014
Simply put, the leg shots that Saffiedine was landing on “The Ace” were vicious. There were moments in the match , particularly in the third, when it seemed like all Sponge had to do was kick Lim’s lead left leg one or two more times and it would have been over. The South Korean could barely stand, his mobility was severely diminished and he was a sitting duck for more of the same punishment that put him that way. In short, Lim looked to be easy pickings for a finish by round three of the bout.
However and for some reason, there were occasions in the match when Sponge would forgo his stand-up attack in favor of following the Ace to the ground and doing battle with him on the mat. The end result of this tactic was to put Lim back in the fight. Indeed, the gritty SK fighter mounted a decent offense in the fifth and at one point, even looked to be presenting a legitimate threat to Saffiedine.
In a compendium, where Tarec showed little ring rust physically, he certainly demonstrated it mentally. To this end and post-fight, Saffiedine has recognized that he made a mistake by chasing Lim to the ground and that he would have been wiser to have forced Ace back to his feet by simply not engaging him.
As Sponge stated on the MMA Hour on Monday:
"I'm still asking myself why I did that; I don't know. I think it was just in the moment. I saw him on the floor, and I tried to ground and pound him and try to end the fight that way, but it wasn't a smart move. I won't do that again. I should have waited for the ref to stand him up, and try to finish the fight like that. I guess it was just a mistake."
As we all learn from our mistakes, it’s reasonable to assume that Tarec won’t make that one again. He could easily have finished the fight anywhere from the third round on and had a much easier night of it, but nonetheless, he still culled his win and he looked great in doing it. More importantly and aside from the mental lapse, he demonstrated no ring rust and appeared to be more than ready for the challenges of the UFC’s welterweight division.
As he now has his first UFC fight and win under his belt, it will be interesting to see how Tarec does against the upper echelons of his class. In considering his performance in Singapore this past Saturday, odds would be good that Sponge is going to make some noise in the 170 pound division.
Outside / Inside photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports