Profile: Strikeforce welterweight champion Tarec Saffiedine (14-3) enjoyed a steady stream of success on the independent circuit earlier in his career, which led him to training with the legendary Team Quest in California and a stint with DREAM. The 26-year-old Belgian fighter was an alternate in DREAM’s welterweight tournament in 2009 before he was quickly snatched up by Strikeforce, where he posted a 6-1 record since early 2010, capped by a unanimous decision win over Nate Marquardt for the title on January 12. Saffiedine is most comfortable on his feet, as he’s a black belt in the Shihaishinkai form of karate, but he uses it as a way to wear down his opponents until an opening in their defense is found, in which case he will go for any submissions when they make themselves available.
UFC Welterweight Contender Robbie Lawler (+130)
Profile:Robbie Lawler (20-9, 1 No-Contest) got his start fighting for Pat Miletich in the infamous Miletich Fighting Systems team out of Iowa at the turn of the century. Lawler was billed as the wunderkind of the group, a 19-year-old prospect with fists of dynamite and the attitude of Matt Hughes. In the early days of the UFC, he went 4-3 between 2002 and 2004 with key wins over Chris Lytle and Tiki Ghosn but equally notable losses to Evan Tanner and Nick Diaz. He then left to blaze his own trail outside the promotion for nearly a decade, winning the Elite XC middleweight title and moving on to Strikeforce to become a perennial contender for the 185-pound crown. The 30-year-old veteran is coming off a stunning TKO win over Josh Koscheck in his return to the UFC, proving his 3-5 record in his previous eight bouts in Strikeforce did not tell the whole story of just how dangerous he can be inside the cage. Lawler’s endless gas tank, explosive punching power and savvy craftiness should serve him well in another UFC run back at welterweight.
Opening UFC on FOX 8 Odds Analysis: MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas made Saffiedine a slim -170 favorite (bet $170 to win $100) while Lawler opened as a +130 underdog (bet $100 to win $130) at 5Dimes sportsbook. It was an interesting move by the UFC to pair up Strikeforce champ Saffiedine with another former Strikeforce fighter in his organizational debut. With so many good crossover bouts between Strikeforce and UFC fighters over the past few months, one has to wonder how there was not a better matchup out there, although Lawler is currently ranked higher at welterweight by the MMAOddsBreaker crew. Saffiedine is more inexperienced than Lawler but has risen quickly in a short amount of time, and this could very well be his toughest opponent since losing to Tyron Woodley. Ninety percent of Lawler’s wins have come via stoppage (17 knockouts and one submission), so he will likely not be looking to simply score points with the judges. Saffiedine is a much more strategic fighter who has seen each of his last six bouts go the distance, and he will need to be ready for a very aggressive foe who will try to end it quickly. If Saffiedine can survive the first round (12 of Lawler’s opponents have not), then he should be able to put himself in position to score another decision victory.