The direction that the UFC takes with new Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine will be an interesting one.
Saffiedine, who stunned the MMA world when he picked Nate Marquardt apart in the main event of the final Strikeforce event, will likely enter the Octagon sometime in the early stages of 2013. Who the Zuffa brass present to the “Sponge” will show exactly what they think of Strikeforce champions.
Will Saffiedine be placed in an immediate title vs. title match with either Georges St-Pierre or Nick Diaz? That is highly, highly unlikely.
For the 26-year-old from Belgium, his road to becoming the UFC welterweight champion will likely be a grind. The 170-pound division is at its deepest right now, with the likes of Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger and others all jockeying for position. Add in the elite welterweights from Strikeforce, and you have a jumbled mess to sort out.
Still, it’s always fun to play the role of Joe Silva and Sean Shelby as matchmaker, so let’s take a look at some potential opponents for Saffiedine inside the Octagon:
Carlos Condit/Rory MacDonald winner
This would be the best-case scenario for Saffiedine, as he would be thrust into the UFC’s spotlight in a likely main or co-main event billing match.
Condit, who is coming off a loss to Georges St-Pierre in a bout to unify the UFC welterweight titles, will be facing MacDonald in a rematch later this year. “The Natural Born Killer” topped MacDonald in their first meeting via TKO with just seconds left in the bout.
Saffiedine would be taking a major leap into the UFC with either Condit or MacDonald – who are both far ahead of the skill set that Marquardt presented. Still, if he considers himself a world champion, these are the kind of fights the Belgian will have to compete in.
The last man to defeat Saffiedine – Tyron Woodley – will make his UFC debut next month against Jay Hieron. With a win, Woodley will have rebounded from a loss to Marquardt and be one-up in terms of Octagon victories over Saffiedine.
Would it make much sense from a booking standpoint to pair Woodley with Saffiedine? Of course, seeing as their first encounter went the distance.
Saffiedine would likely be motivated to avenge the loss, and Woodley would want nothing more than to beat the man who was the last one to wear a title he chased for a couple of years.
Photo credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog
This would be a hard sell for anyone who watched Saffiedine systematically pick Marquardt apart recently.
Marquardt, who will likely join Saffiedine in the UFC despite the loss, is a veteran fighter. You would have expected him to check those kicks that Saffiedine continued to throw, and you would have to think a second meeting would not go the same way.
Still, rematches that are so one-sided in the eyes of the audience don’t make for great sells on pay-per-view, or even on free television, so it could take a while before we see Saffiedine-Marquardt II.
Depending on if he gets past Dong Hyun Kim in March, Bahadurzada would make for an intriguing opponent for Saffiedine.
Bahadurzada has won seven straight fights – and would make it eight with a win over Kim – entering the fight, and has quickly made an impact in the UFC after knocking out Paulo Thiago in just 42 seconds. Bahadurzada has power and skill, holding 11 knockout victories and six submission wins to his credit.
While he isn’t the biggest name in the welterweight division, Bahadurzada has a sparkling resume and would give Saffiedine plenty to think about.
The past year was one of the best for Brown, as he put together four consecutive victories, including a stunning KO of Mike Swick to close out 2012.
After a rough patch that saw him go 1-4 inside the Octagon, Brown’s status skyrocketed upon finishing Swick, a perennial top-ten fighter.
Brown may still need to prove himself by taking another fight before receiving a match with a champion like Saffiedine, but if he were to approach the UFC and call out Saffiedine, there could be something to build upon.