The roller coaster ride known as Strikeforce takes the tracks for one final time on Jan. 12 in Oklahoma City, but thanks to a welterweight title main event between champion Nate Marquardt and Tarec Saffiedine, the promotion can be laid to rest after one last rush of adrenaline.

Originally expected to feature three title fights, the event has lost a lot of its starpower following injuries to lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez and middleweight kingpin Luke Rockhold. However, the UFC veteran Marquardt is no stranger to carrying a card on his shoulders.

Marquardt’s title reign will be short-lived regardless of the outcome of this fight. Following an absence of more than a year after a testosterone replacement therapy fiasco and subsequent release from the UFC, the Coloradoan made his welterweight debut in July and demolished the previously unbeaten Tyron Woodley to capture the belt.

Meanwhile, Saffiedine is riding a three-fight winning streak, with his only loss under the Strikeforce banner coming against Woodley by decision. The Belgian will be looking for a major upset to convince the UFC brass to bring him to the Octagon.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Marquardt – 10, Saffiedine – 9

Marquardt (R) delivers a right hand (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

If there’s one area of this fight where the discrepancy will be obvious, it’s in the stand-up department. Although Marquardt relied heavily on his grappling arsenal in his early career, the 44-fight veteran has focused his attention on his striking over his recent outings, scoring (T)KO’s in five of his last six wins. While the 33-year-old possesses the power to end a fight with one strike—just ask Demian Maia—the majority of his success on the feet comes in his ability to unleash devastating, video game-like combinations. Marquardt’s willingness to string together kicks, punches and elbows earned him the Strikeforce belt and could very well be what ensures he keeps it.

Saffiedine is not even in the same conversation as Marquardt in terms of technical ability, but the Team Quest product does have one thing in his favor: his chin. The 26-year-old fighter has never been finished in 16 career fights. But, on the other hand, he’s also finished just one bout with his hands, a knockout of Nate Moore in May of 2010. If the Belgian wants to capture the belt, he’s going to have to avoid a firefight with Marquardt on the feet.

Ground Game: Marquardt – 10, Saffiedine – 9

Interestingly enough, both of these fighters have taken a similar path in terms of the effectiveness of their submission games. Marquardt’s early MMA success came in Japan under the Pancrase banner and a large portion of his 15 career submission wins were registered at that time. In fact, since he joined the UFC in 2005, he has submitted only two fighters over a 15-fight stretch. But don’t underestimate Marquardt’s submission game; he is a legitimate black belt. Outside of early career losses to Genki Sudo and Ricardo Almeida, Marquardt has avoided the dangerous attacks of Maia, Thales Leites and Rousimar Palhares.

Much like in the striking department, Saffiedine’s biggest asset in the realm of submissions might be his defense. He’s never been finished on the mat, but unlike his opponent, he hasn’t faced high-level submission fighters. After claiming five of his first six wins by submission, Saffiedine’s ground game has largely been ineffective against the tougher competition he’s faced under the Strikeforce banner. Although he’s yet to tap thus far in his career, it would be unwise of him to spend too much time in Marquardt’s guard over the course of a 25-minute fight.

Wrestling: Marquardt – 9, Saffiedine – 10

Saffiedine (blue shorts) (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

If there’s been a chink in the armor of Marquardt, it has been his wrestling. He really struggled against Chael Sonnen and Yushin Okami, both of whom employ a grinding attack. Yet, against the All-American Woodley, the former middleweight showed marked improvement in his takedown defense. That will be an important aspect to this fight, as Marquardt’s easiest path to victory is on the feet.

Without question, Saffiedine’s time at Team Quest with Dan Henderson has resulted in relentless takedown offense and strong top control. While he struggled off his own back against Woodley, Marquardt is unlikely to use a similar strategy in this match-up. Saffiedine’s path to victory has to include using his wrestling to close the distance on Marquardt and tire him along the fence, hoping for a decision.

X-Factor

It would be crazy to ignore what will be the deciding factor in this fight: experience. Marquardt has nearly three times as many fights as Saffiedine and a large portion of those came against elite competition. Can Saffiedine find a way to overcome it with his youth? Or will Marquardt take his opponent lightly with a ticket to the UFC firmly in his grasp, win or lose?

Total: Marquardt – 29, Saffiedine – 28

Verdict: This fight won’t be close unless Saffiedine finds a way to control Marquardt on the ground for a full five rounds. Marquardt is going to show the Belgian a thing or two about fighting on the next level, scoring a vicious second-round TKO and reminding the UFC’s 170-pound division that he’s on his way.

Top Photo: Nate Marquardt (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

The MMA Corner Staff

Your home for all things MMA. News, Interviews, Event Coverage, Editorials. If it is MMA related, you will find it on The MMA Corner.