Daniel Straus has really been turning some heads lately.
The 26-year-old Cincinnati native made his mark by defeating lightweight Bellator veteran Chad Hinton last June and he followed it up by stepping in on late notice and decisioning former top WEC featherweight prospect Karen Darabedyan at Shark Fights 13 last September.
Straus has put on a show in the Bellator season four lightweight tournament, putting on a fight of the year candidate against formerly 19-0 Argentinian fighter Nazareno Malegarie in the first round of the tourney and then proceeding to completely and utterly dominate Kenny Foster in the semifinals.
With the victory, Straus will now carry his impressive 12-fight winning streak into the finals against Bellator season two finalist Patricio Freire in the sternest test of his career.
Straus tells MMAmania.com that he's training for the best "Pitbull" there's ever been
"When I go in there to fight him, I expect him to be at his best as much as he expects me to be at my best. I want to mix things up, tag him first, deliver a lot of strikes and if it goes to the ground, I'm not scared for it to go to the ground. I'll be very much prepared for it to go to the ground. I want this kid to be like, 'wow! I did not know what I was getting into when I got in a fight with Straus.' I just want the best fight to happen."
In his semifinal fight with Kenny Foster, Straus wasn't simply content to ride out a decision. Despite handily winning the first two rounds, he pushed the pace and went for the finish. It's a mindset that MMA fans can definitely appreciate.
"Going into the third round I knew I was probably up top on the scorecards and I knew the one thing about it was at any point I could have lost the match. I didn't want (Foster) to regain any composure. He's got big hands, he could swing wild and catch me so I still needed to stay on top of him. I didn't want to coast to a win or anything like that. When he got up against the cage and I started sinking (the guillotine choke) in, I was trying to sink it under his neck and he wasn't allowing me to. We kinda had another scramble and I got his neck again and I went for it and he tapped."
On that same night, Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren dropped down in weight to fight Marcos Galvao, a match that many believe he lost. Straus got to watch the first round and he believes Warren is vulnerable.
"I feel like everybody is beatable. Warren has holes in his game just as well as I have holes in my game."
No one fights as actively as Daniel Straus. He incredibly started his pro career with seven fights in barely two months. Despite being a professional fighter for just over two years, his upcoming match with Patricio "Pitbull" will be his 20th match. The Bellator tournament system was practically made for a fighter like him, the "Iron Man" of MMA.
While Straus feels his constant activity was a benefit in the first two rounds, he'll be going against a seasoned tournament veteran in Freire.
"Patricio's been here before. He's fought like this before. At this point in the game, I don't think it's a factor anymore. Maybe in the first two fights that could have been a factor but now I'm fighting somebody that's been in the same position that I've been in and it's not gonna help me or hinder me at all. I do like fighting back to back and I do like fighting often and I do like this tournament style. In fact I kinda wish we'd have a bigger tournament so it's more than three fights."
The Team Vision fighter closed the interview by discussing what exactly makes Patricio Freire such a dangerous fighter and what he has to do to come out victorious come Saturday night. As is customary in Daniel Straus fights, he fully expects to be reactive to whatever his opponent brings.
"Patricio is a great fighter. He's very well-rounded and I've got to bring my "A-game." He's been in this situation before. He has heavy hands. He has great jiu-jitsu and he's got a big heart. For me to beat him, I'm gonna have to come with the best."
"I'm comfortable standing in front of him, I'm comfortable dancing around him and I'm comfortable wrestling him. I'm even game for doing some jiu-jitsu with him. I'm game for it all. I definitely don't want to take his hits. I'm not trying to get knocked out and see how hard he hits or anything like that but I do wanna be able to use my reach to my advantage and use my speed to my advantage. Whichever way that happens in the fight, that's how I'm gonna have to use it."
Can Straus be the second consecutive American wrestler to pull out a victory over one of the deadly "Pitbull" brothers?
Sound off, Maniacs!
For the complete audio of Daniel's interview, click here.