When it was all said and done at UFC Fight Night 34, Tarec Saffiedine exited the cage with the decision victory over Hyun Gyu Lim. It earned him his first career win inside the prestigious Octagon and improved his winning streak to five. But did it prove that Saffiedine stands shoulder to shoulder with the best welterweights the UFC has to offer?

With the welterweight division as wide open as it has ever been, trying to figure out exactly where he ranks among the top welterweight contenders can be a challenge. It could also yield a surprising answer.

Should the victory over Lim last weekend boost Saffiedine to No. 1 contender status? No. Not even close, really. As it currently stands, he is a niche fighter in a niche market. Much to the chagrin of MMA judge Cecil Peoples, the Belgian has proved that leg kicks can be lethal. He effectively chopped down Lim the same way he did Nate Marquardt for the Strikeforce welterweight championship. During both of those fights, he pulverized the legs of his opponent to the point where they could barely stand. He knocked down his South Korean opponent in the third round with the chopping kicks and had him on the verge of giving up on his stool.

Although it would be nice if it was all positive news for the “Sponge,” it isn’t. The five straight victories on his resume are great, but they were all by decision. His only knockout was back in 2010 in Strikeforce. All of his submission victories took place in minor promotions. Until Saffiedine proves that he can finish his opponents, he will be ranked behind the likes of Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald, Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger.

Yet, those leg kicks. Anyone who doesn’t think that the leg kick can be a lethal weapon needs to ask Lim or Marquardt how they feel. Or ask Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who was chopped down like a tree by Forrest Griffin. Or ask new bantamweight No. 1 contender Urijah Faber, who was effectively forced to move down from featherweight after Jose Aldo barely left “The California Kid” standing.

Leg kicks are an important part of Saffiedine’s skill set, and they were the major factor in the way that the Team Quest fighter controlled the fight against Lim. Those kicks will lead him higher and higher up the rankings.

Saffiedine has put himself in good position considering not many knew who he was just two years ago. When he entered the promotion as the last Strikeforce welterweight champion, it was a badge on his uniform that commanded his peers to respect him and not take him lightly. Now that the Belgian has a UFC victory on his resume, he is headed in the direction that he wants to be going.

Simply put, Saffiedine did just enough to prove that he belongs among the top welterweight ranks. He hasn’t done enough to get himself a little number next to his name on the broadcast, but he has definitely done enough to capture the attention of those around him. Sometimes that alone can be better than having that ranking.

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.