UFC Fight Night 34 Recap: Breakfast With A Side Of Beatdown

UFC Fight Night 34Who needs Saturday morning cartoons? MMA fans had the chance to wake up early to catch the UFC’s first offering on the new ‘UFC Fight Pass’ and despite some mixed reviews of the product as a whole, there’s no doubt that this card delivered some great action. The performance of the Fight Pass platform was flawless as well, as all reports seemed to indicate crystal clear streams with no lagging or buffering; certainly a good sign for the organization moving forward. While it likely won’t hold up as a fight of the year candidate twelve months from now, the main event between Tarec Saffiedine (15-3) and Hyun Gyu Lim (12-4-1) was definitely entertaining. As expected, Lim started off strong but began to fade as the fight progressed and Saffiedine was able to use his leg kicks to great effect. In the third round, “Ace” was badly hurt by kicks and it looked as if the fight might be stopped. Lim persevered and came out strong early in the fourth, but Saffiedine quickly asserted his dominance once again. The fifth round may have been the best of the entire bout, as Lim fought through obvious pain to hurt Saffiedine in the waning seconds, but it was not enough to swing the judges cards in his favor. Saffiedine, who was ranked #10 coming into the bout, deserves to take a step up in competition, but all of the top ranked welterweights are either booked or injured. As a result, he’ll likely have to wait for either the Rory MacDonald/Demian Maia winner, or see what goes down at UFC 171. In my mind, the Belgian would be better served to wait for another spot that will allow him to fight five rounds, as it allows his grinding striking style to come through. At some point however, fans will want to see him finish a fight when he has his opponent badly hurt, as now two times in a row he’s allowed a one-legged foe to reach the final bell. The co-main event saw the long overdue debut of Tatsuya Kawajiri (33-7-2), as he dispatched of highly touted prospect Sean Soriano (8-1) via second round rear-naked choke. This fight featured some of the craziest betting line movement in some time, as Kawajiri opened at -210 (bet $210 to win $100), reached as high as -260, and closed at -102. The first two minutes were difficult for “Crusher” as Soriano displayed excellent takedown defense, but once the veteran figured out how to get the fight to the ground, he took over. One of the most underrated top position grapplers in the sport, Kawajiri showed off his guard passing, control, and ground and pound in the first round before catching the choke in the second. The end of the fight saw some controversy, as Soriano tapped innocuously on Kawajiri’s glove which referee Steve Percival did not see. As a result, Soriano was choked unconscious before the fight was stopped. Since dropping to featherweight in 2011, Kawajiri has gone 5-0 in the division after being a perennially ranked lightweight. Being an aging fighter, UFC matchmakers should look to move him up the ladder quickly to see if he can contend for a title before it’s too late. Perhaps the #7 ranked Dennis Siver would provide a suitable test, as his grappling has been much improved at 145. Earlier on the main card, Kiichi Kunimoto (16-5-2, 1 NC) picked up a disqualification victory over Luiz Dutra (11-3-1) after a series of illegal elbows to the back of Kunimoto’s head left him unable to continue. Dutra now has two losses via injury and this third loss via DQ in his career. Illegal elbows were a theme of this card, as Kyung Ho Kang (12-7, 1 NC) was penalized two points for landing a pair of 12-6 elbows on Shunichi Shimizu (28-9-10) as the Korean had a triangle applied. Kang was not deterred however, and went on to win the bout via arm-triangle in the third round.

Regarding the two point deduction: there was a great deal of uproar about this call (again by referee Steve Percival), but he handled the situation perfectly. Rule 16c states that: “If an injury is sustained during competition as a result of an intentional foul, as determined by the referee, and the bout is allowed to continue, the referee shall notify the scorekeeper to automatically deduct two points from the contestant who committed the foul.”

Shimizu was cut by the elbows landed — which constitutes an injury — and thus Percival was handcuffed by the rules. A similar situation happened at the Cage Warriors New Years Eve show mere days ago, and it was handled in the exact same manner.

Essentially what this boils down to is Percival having a poor reputation with MMA fans, and reason going out the window when examining this situation.

The undercard featured some phenomenal performances as well. Max Holloway (8-3) took a while to get cooking, but dominated Will Chope (19-6) from the mid point of the first round until he picked up the knockout of the night award with a second round flurry. Fellow Hawaiians Russell Doane (13-3) and Dustin Kimura (11-1) also finished their fights, with Doane picking up the submission of the night bonus for his triangle over former Mundials champion Leandro Issa (11-4). One of the better events for Hawaiians in recent history. For the first of these more regionalized events shown on ‘UFC Fight Pass’ this card was a success, and shouldn’t do anything to deter future viewers.

Written by Brad Taschuk

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