If you ask most fans, particularly those who don’t really know who Tarec Saffiedine is, Rory MacDonald is going to take one step closer to a welterweight title shot tonight at UFC Fight Night 54. Yes, the two are set to throw down in the card’s main event, and Saffiedine is the consensus underdog. If you take a look at the betting lines, they have MacDonald as a favorite in the -500 range. That’s pretty sizeable.
While there’s no question MacDonald is one of the division’s more talented fighters, and one of the UFC’s most promising athletes, Mr. Saffiedine is no slouch. While the former Strikeforce champ has always drawn praise for his striking skills, particularly his cringe inducing leg kicks, Saffiedine’s takedown defence has come along ways in recent years. If you saw his bouts with Nate Marquardt, or more recently Hyun Gyu Lim, then you know why the Belgian fighter is currently ranked #9 in the UFC’s 170 division.
Recently Saffiedine spoke with UFC.com, and the 28 year-old outlined why he called out MacDonald, and why he thinks he can defeat the promotion’s #2 ranked welterweight:
“I watched his fight against Tyron Woodley,” Saffiedine said. “I was having good feelings while watching that fight because the way he fights, the way he moves, the way he throws his kicks and punches and goes for his takedowns, his overall game – I could really understand it. I could really pinpoint his movements. I could really see myself being able to beat him. That’s also why I want to fight him because I believe I have the skills and the mindset to beat Rory MacDonald.”
That’s interesting, as if you recall, MacDonald pretty much cruised through Woodley for the unanimous decision win at UFC 174. Saffiedine also offered this additional insight as to why he’s so confident heading into UFC FN 54:
“When BJ Penn was getting ready to fight Rory MacDonald, BJ’s manager asked me to come over and train with BJ for the camp,” Saffiedine remembers. “I was watching tape and watching his technique, his distance and everything. When they asked me to mimic Rory’s style, I was able to do it pretty well. It was one of those things, I could really understand his game and that’s why I’m really confident going into this fight.”
MacDonald primarily turned to his reach and striking skills to win both those fights, but it will be interesting to see if he tries to do the same versus Saffiedine. The latter may not possess the same stopping power as Woodley, but his aforementioned kicks are vicious, and his striking game overall is ridiculously sharp.
If Saffiedine can pull off a win, it would definitely shake up the 170 pound division big time.
UFC FN 54 will be hosted by the Halifax Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.