Strikeforce officially came to a close on Saturday night, and it really was a storybook ending with one of the fighters who had been with the promotion for the past three years walking away with the title in the organization’s final fight ever.

It was four years ago that a 22-year old kid from Belgium moved to the United States with a dream of becoming a champion, and Tarec Saffiedine saw those dreams become reality as he battered and bested Nate Marquardt to win the last ever Strikeforce title.

Training at Team Quest since arriving in the States, Saffiedine first came to Strikeforce as part of their developmental series called Strikeforce Challengers before working his way to the main cards on Showtime more than a year and a half later.

So with Strikeforce on its way out, Saffiedine got the title shot he had longed for as he faced former UFC middleweight contender Nate Marquardt in the main event on Saturday night.

Coming into the fight, Saffiedine was a decided underdog, but he certainly didn’t perform that way and came after Marquardt with sheer determination from the opening bell.

A kickboxer by trade, Saffiedine showed off his skills as he cracked Marquardt early with a quick strike that dropped the former UFC contender, setting the stage for what was about to happen for the entire 25-minute fight.

Saffiedine unloaded a barrage of leg kicks on Marquardt that made his leg as many different colors as on a painter’s palette. Time and time again, Saffiedine swung his leg, blasting Marquardt’s unguarded thigh and with each one landed the Colorado native slowed down just a little bit more.

“I’ve been training so hard, for so long, and my kicks are one of my best weapons. I trained them a lot in training, so that was kind of the game plan,” Saffiedine said about the leg kicks.

As the rounds wore on, Marquardt’s cardio started to backfire as well and with his mouth gaped open begging for oxygen, his last ditch effort to head to the UFC later this year on a win faded away.

Saffiedine only gained strength when seeing Marquardt fading, and continued to attack his leg with kick after kick until it was a bruised and beaten mess.

The final horn sounded and Tarec Saffiedine knew that he had just captured the gold he longed for so long to hold.

“It’s unbelievable. I can’t imagine I’m wearing the belt right now, it’s unreal,” Saffiedine said after winning the unanimous decision. “I want to thank Strikeforce for being by my side for so long.”

Just a few days ago, Tarec Saffiedine wasn’t even sure he’d be in the UFC after tonight, but with his win over Nate Marquardt in impressive fashion he’s punched his ticket and given himself a lot of momentum as he heads into the welterweight division later this year.

There’s also a cloud of disappointment overhead for Nate Marquardt, who was talked about all week as a legitimate contender at 170lbs with conversations already putting him in the race for a title shot once he arrived in the UFC. Now with this loss, Marquardt will need to regroup and recover before trying to find his footing in one of the toughest weight classes in the UFC.

(photo by Ester Lin/Strikeforce/Showtime)

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