Tarec Saffiedine vs. Hyun Gyu Lim:
Mike Drahota: Despite not getting much press as the headlining bout of a card taking place a week after the mind-blowing UFC 168, this could turn out to be a good bout of talented strikers. Saffiedine ended his Strikeforce tenure as the promotion’s final welterweight champion, but given the sharks that populate the UFC’s 170-pound talent pool, I don’t think that matters much anymore. Saffiedine’s kickboxing is accurate and stifling; however, I feel like him taking the entire year off after the Marquardt fight will hurt him. Lim has been in the Octagon, and he’s knocked out his last two opponents in vicious fashion. That’s two more knockouts than Saffiedine has in his entire career. Look for the dynamic Lim to push the pace early, never letting Saffiedine outpoint him with low kicks. My pick is Lim via second round TKO.
Rory Kernaghan: Tarec Saffiedine he faces a very stern challenge in surging Hyun Gyu Lim. Lim is a very tall Welterweight at 6’2″ and I expect him to continue his impressive run of form at Fight Night 34. ‘Sponge’ has been out of action for a year since beating Nate Marquardt in Strikeforce’s final fight, and this could hamper his performance on Saturday. I expect Lim to outwork ‘Sponge’ with his diverse striking and strength. Saffiedine is a very tough customer and I don’t expect Lim to finish him, although anything is possible. I’m going out on a limb and saying Lim takes a solid decision win.
Brian Cox: Tarec Saffiedine is a quality fighter, to be sure. I think he’s got some very good stand-up and is pretty active on his feet. He’s not the type of fighter that wants to simply stand in front of another fighter and trade shots, which is something that Hyun Gyu Lim does. “Sponge” has a well-rounded game, can go the distance and has a decent Octagon IQ. However, he’s coming off of a year lay-off and going up against a finisher. Lim is a beast who packs power and at 6’3”, he is going to be enormous compared to the 5’9” Saffiedine. Happily for Tarec, “The Ace” has yet to learn how to use his height and range effectively. Sadly for Tarec though, is the fact that Lim appears to have a decent chin and can afford to stand and trade from within “Sponge’s” range. Subsequently and for reasons of ring-rust, and a considerable size and power difference, I’m going to pick Hyun Gyu Lim by way of second round KO.
Buster Evans: I cannot wait for this battle of opposite strikers. Lim is an absolute beast who has really impressed me in his two UFC outings, his main strengths being his granite chin and his devastating power. The Korean looked absolutely devastating with his knees in defeating Pascal Krauss at UFC 164. He’ll face his toughest test to date against Saffiedine, however. The former Strikeforce champion has an impressive karate background and is most likely the better all-around striker. In his last fight against Nate Marquardt, Saffiedine used his speed and elusiveness to earn a unanimous decision win. Saffiedine hasn’t fought since January last year and I think that’s going to affect him. Expect Lim to walk through Saffiedine’s point striking and take a dominant, early TKO win. Lim by TKO, round 1.
Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Sean Soriano:
Mike Drahota: The long-awaited debut of Japanese legend Kawajiri will be exciting, although it may be coming at too late of an hour. The 35-year-old “Crusher” has looked unstoppable at featherweight, but he’s done it against a list of names that are far from the top of the heap. His opponent Soriano, a late replacement for originally scheduled Hacran Dias, may seem like the same on paper. However, he’s an undefeated prospect who benefits greatly from the tutelage of his Blackzilians team. Soriano is well rounded and has been studying under Bellator Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez, who beat Kawajiri in DREAM. Despite “Crusher’s” impressive knockout power, look for Soriano to neutralize that with his grappling en route to a shocking win. Soriano via unanimous decision.
Rory Kernaghan: I expect Tatsuya ‘The Crusher’ Kawajiri to live up to his nickname at Fight Night 34, against an unknown in Sean Soriano. The Japanese featherweight is known for his diverse submission game and heavy hands. Look for an early onslaught from the debuting Kawajiri where he rocks Soriano and finishes him with a decisive choke. First round submission for Kawajiri.
Brian Cox: In the instance of Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Sean Soriano it’s pretty much a case of experience vs. youth. Kawajiri is a solid fighter with 39 professional fights to his credit. He’s on a five fight winning streak, will all but one of those fights coming by way of stoppage. In short, he’s hot and can put Soriano’s lights out. That said, he’s 8 & 0 as he makes his UFC debut and coming out of the “Blackzilians” club in Florida, he has one of the best teams in MMA training him. On this one, I think youth, drive and camp will outdo experience. For those reasons, I’m picking Sean Soriano by way of a split decision victory.
Buster Evans: Kawajiri vs. Soriano is a tough fight to pick. Kawajiri always turns up to fight and he won’t go down easy. He’s looked impressive since dropping down to featherweight, picking up five dominant wins. But none have came against decent competition, and he will be facing a very well rounded opponent in UFC newcomer Sean Soriano, who is undefeated in his career. I think this will come down to Soriano’s ability to get a takedown and win the fight on top, as I can’t see him being able to hang on the feet with Kawajiri. I think this will be a close one, though. Kawajiri via UD.
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