The UFC is in a period of flux, plain and simple. Sometimes, in the commotion, rising stars can fall well under the radar. Last weekend’s festivities took the spotlight off of nearly everything else in the sport of MMA. Rising amid the hangover from the Tate-Rousey feud, and Anderson Silva breaking his leg, are two future welterweight stars who are sure to put on a “fight of the night” performance. To make matters worse, the division is so stacked right now that one could easily run right down the top-10 list and make a case for either of these fighters to have an eventual title shot. The recent retirement of longtime UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre has made the division a virtual free-for-all.

Last January, in the final Strikeforce fight ever, Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt to earn the promotion’s welterweight title, never having a chance to defend that belt. In that bout, the Belgian, who trains with Dan Henderson’s Team Quest in California, chopped at the incumbent champ’s leg for nearly the entire fight before winning by unanimous decision. He was supposed to make his UFC debut against Robbie Lawler in July, but he suffered an injury and had to pull out. Saffiedine will finally be making his first Octagon appearance on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 34 at the Marina Bay Sands in Marina Bay, Singapore, marking the promotion’s first event in the island nation.

Facing off against Saffiedine is South Korea’s Hyun Gyu Lim, who fights out of Korean Top Team in Seoul. He is filling in as a replacement for Jake Ellenberger who was injured during training. Lim is the former Pacific Xtreme Combat welterweight champ, is 2-0 in the Octagon–winning both fights by knockout–and is the larger fighter, having balanced his time between welterweight and middleweight. Lim will be looking to score a big upset over the better-known Saffiedine, but both men need a big win, if they wish to have any run toward title contention in the next couple years.

Saffiedine and Lim are both long-time vets riding notable winning streaks, making this one of the most underrated bouts in the welterweight division. Any real fan of MMA will not want to miss this match-up, which is still a headline fight for a reason.

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: Saffiedine – 9, Lim – 10

People might be shocked to see Saffiedine behind Lim in the striking department, but there is one significant difference between the two. While Saffiedine was able to methodically turn Marquardt’s thigh into something loosely resembling ground meat, and was also able to go the distance with knockout-heavy fighters like Scott Smith, Tyler Stinson and Roger Bowling, he only has one win by knockout and has been to decision 11 times. He has amazing point-scoring ability, and is one of the rare fighters who can pull off regularly switching his stances, but he lacks knockout power. Saffiedine is a finesse striker, but Lim sits on another side of the tracks.

Lim destroys opponents with his stand-up, and it helps that he’s a huge welterweight at 6-foot-2; four inches taller than  Saffiedine. In fact, of his significant past opponents, the Belgian had the most problems striking against Stinson, who is an inch taller than Lim. The Korean is way more aggressive than Stinson, presses forward much stronger than Marquardt and Bowling, and has a 79-inch reach, which is very long for a welterweight.

The technique that Saffiedine used to close distance and land those nasty kicks on Marquardt will be null and void against a guy of Lim’s size and aggressiveness. Lim scored “Fight of the Night” honors in his last battle with a first-ever knockout of Pascal Krauss, bringing his total knockout count to nine in 12 wins. If this battle stays standing, Saffiedine could be in big trouble.

Wrestling: Saffiedine – 10, Lim – 10

Saffiedine may have issues trying to stand and bang with Lim, but from a wrestling standpoint he has a clear advantage in pure skills. He is a very well-rounded fighter, and, with a top wrestling camp like Team Quest, his wrestling proficiency is solid. The former Strikeforce champ has great takedown defense, a tight clinch game and utilizes effective top control on the mat. However, skills are one thing, and execution is another.

In reality, Lim may not have the same level of skills as Saffiedine, but he gets the wrestling done when he needs to. Lim’s clinch is very powerful and can end many well-thought gameplans. His takedowns and defense are very similar in accuracy to his opponent’s, and no welterweight wants him on top if it hits the mat.

Saffiedine uses wrestling to maintain control in his long-distance matches, but Lim uses his wrestling to set up ground-and-pound finishes. Both men exhibit wrestling prowess in different ways, but both utilize their wrestling in a way that gets the job done, leaving a toss-up in this department.

Submission Grappling: Saffiedine – 10, Lim – 9

If there’s one area that Saffiedine’s wrestling skills have the ability to trump Lim’s size is in the submission grappling game. There was a time, about four-and-a-half years ago, when the Belgian was considered a submission specialist. In fact, five of his first six wins were by various joint locks and a choke, showcasing a wide range of submission attacks. Lim has a couple subs under his belt, but they were opportunistic wins for a guy that prefers to beat his opponents into stoppage. Although, he did win that PXC belt by guillotine choke just 18 months ago.

It may have been a long time since Saffiedine finished an opponent by submission, but that may be his best bet against Lim. Lim does have the ability to win on the ground, but he prefers to keep the fight striking. A well-thought-out grappling plan could prove very fruitful for Saffiedine.

X-factor

The x-factor in this fight is the change of opponent for Saffiedine. Against Jake Ellenberger, Saffiedine had a chance to fight a guy with a similar style to Marquardt, a guy who is shorter in stature, and someone who has fought rather lethargic in recent bouts. That is a recipe for success for the Team Quest standout. Lim is a whole other story.

The Korean is on a seven-fight stoppage streak, which includes two UFC fights and a championship run in PXC. Lim is no joke. He was already preparing to fight on the card, so it’s not like he had to quickly jump into a training camp. Lim is in that rare position to enter a big fight on short notice and make the big splash he feels he deserves. This could prove to be a big problem for the Belgian.

Saffiedine has momentum on paper, but he hasn’t fought in almost a year, rarely in Asia, and never in the Octagon. Lim has crazy momentum, earned UFC “Fight of the Night” honors only four months ago, and is fighting on his home continent, which means the crowd will be behind him. Saffiedine is a true professional taking this one on short notice, but this is going to be an even tougher fight for his UFC debut than what was previously scheduled.

Total: Saffiedine – 29, Lim – 29

Verdict: UFC Fight Night 34 brings a headline match that will not leave fans disappointed. In one of the most stacked divisions in the promotion, Tarec Saffiedine and Hyung Gyu Lim are going to show the UFC brass why they belong on a long roster of welterweights. Saffiedine should seem to be the favorite, based on his Strikeforce title and who his previous opponents are, but beating Lim is no easy task. Lim has only been stopped twice, both times by submission, but Saffiedine has never been stopped.

When it comes down to it, Lim has the chance to hand Saffiedine his first stoppage with an early TKO. The Korean is taller, more aggressive and has a long reach for a welterweight. If the fight stays standing, the Belgian will be in trouble. With wrestling being somewhat of a non-issue in this fight, Saffiedine’s best chances for stoppage lie in the submission game. The only problem is that Lim is not easy to get into a position for that to happen.

Saffiedine may be able to outpoint his way to another decision victory, but Lim should take this one by a shocking TKO.