Tarec Saffiedine: I Don’t Think Hendricks Is Going To Hold On To The Belt For Too Long

No. 10-ranked UFC welterweight Tarec Saffiedine has been out of action since his UFC Fight Night 34 drubbing of Hyun Gyu Lim in January, but his patience paid off in spades.

The former Strikeforce champion requested a bout with No. 2 Rory McDonald, and the fight was signed for October 4’s UFC Fight Night 54 from Halifax, Canada. “Ares” has long been thought to be the heir apparent to his good friend Georges St. Pierre’s long-held throne, but Saffiedine told Submission Radio he sees a few holes in MacDonald’s game he’ll be looking to exploit this fall:

“You know, you are as good as your last fight right? So when I watch his fight against Tyron, you know he did good, nothing to take away from, him but while I was watching that fight, man I was like ‘man I can beat that guy’. The way he moves, the way he throws his punches, the way he set up his kicks, the way he sets up takedowns, I truly believe I have the skills and the mindset to beat him, and that is one of the reasons I asked for that fight as well.

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He’s a technical fighter, he can keep the same pace as the fight goes on, he has no kickboxing, his kicks are ok, his wrestling’s not bad, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to take me down. And I think I match up pretty well with him as far as technique. If I’ve got a good game plan, and I have a pretty good idea of what I’m gonna do, If I stick to it, I’m pretty sure I’m going to get the W.”

After coming over to the UFC as the final Strikeforce 170-pound champion, “The Sponge” is looking to add UFC gold to his trophy case. He believes a big win against MacDonald would put him right into the mix, and he acknowledged that “Ares” has more to lose than he does:

“Yeah I believe so, yeah definitely. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted the fight also, because he is tough. I have everything to gain from winning that fight. I have everything to gain, nothing to lose. I think he has more to lose than me, and I have to put on a good fight, I have to win decisively. If I win by decision, which I hope I don’t, I have to win every round, you know I can’t leave it the judges in a way that it might go one way or another, I have to win decisively. And you know after that W, definitely that will put me right there in the mix.”

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A win in Halifax would instantly catapult him near the top of the crowded welterweight division, which is arguably the most talented in all of mixed martial arts right now. At the top sits Johny Hendricks, the injured champion who has been on the sidelines since winning the vacant title with a narrow decision over Robbie Lawler at UFC 171 in March. Saffiedine believes that “Bigg Rigg” won’t hold onto the belt for much longer:

“It’s been really exciting since GSP left, because you know, I believe everybody in the top 10, top 5 is one fight away, one really good win away from a title shot. Everybody has the tools to fight to get a shot at the title. Everybody has a chance if they put on a good fight, good performance, and we are all hungry for that belt.

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So I don’t think Hendricks is gonna hold on to it for too long. Everybody is coming after it. His fight against Robbie Lawler is so close. Robbie is on a good run, on his way back to get the fight, and Hendricks has been injured, so we’ll see. Next year it’s gonna be even more exciting I believe.”

Indeed welterweight is poised to be the most exciting division in UFC in 2015. Hendricks and Lawler will most likely rematch for the belt sometime early next year, and then it’s going to be quite the free-for-all after the belt is back in play. Will Saffiedine secure his spot by upsetting MacDonald in Canada?

Photo: Mark D. Smith for USA TODAY Sports