As 2014 dawned, Tarec Saffiedine completed a nifty MMA trivia hat trick: He was the last Strikeforce welterweight champion; he had won that belt from Nate Marquardt in the final bout in the history of that promotion; and he was about to headline UFC Fight Night 34, the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship card in Singapore. It was also the first Fight Night card not to air on television in North America, as the promotion used it as a hook to drive sign-ups for its brand new subscription-based platform, UFC Fight Pass.
The UFC’s procedure for dealing with exiting champions from other promotions has generally been to throw them directly into the pool of top contenders, and Saffiedine was no different, as he was matched with Jake Ellenberger, a Top 10 welterweight at the time and one of the most feared knockout artists in the division. However, when Ellenberger withdrew with a hamstring injury, the UFC replaced him with the red-hot Hyun Gyu Lim. Lim was a less heralded, but no less dangerous foe, riding into the event on a seven-fight winning streak, all by finish, the last two in the UFC Octagon.
Saffiedine-Lim was a blast, an easy choice for “Fight of the Night,” as they engaged in a five-round war, nearly entirely on the feet. Saffiedine carried the day with the same brutal leg kicks he had used to dethrone Marquardt, while Lim popped the stocky Belgian with numerous long, straight punches. Clearly behind on the scorecards, Lim rocked Saffiedine in the waning moments of the fight, but he was too tired and hurt to press the issue and while he took the round, the unanimous decision went to Saffiedine, the UFC’s newest welterweight contender.
As it turned out, neither man was long for the upper reaches of the sport. After that auspicious debut, Saffiedine went 1-4 in his next five, prompting his release from the UFC and his apparent retirement from the sport. (Ironically, his lone win in that stretch came against Ellenberger, whose own decline had been even more precipitous.) Lim exited the UFC on a three-fight losing streak of his own, and has not competed since November of 2018. He may be best remembered by the average UFC fan today for his role in Mike Perry’s infamous Octagon debut, in which a nasty knockout win by Perry was marred by racist slurs from his corner.