This Saturday night (July 30), two of the most talented welterweights in Strikeforce will battle it out for superiority as recent title challenger Paul Daley takes on rising wrestling stud Tyron Woodley on the main card of Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson".
Former Missouri All-American wrestler Tyron Woodley, after two years of cutting his teeth and developing his talents under Strikeforce's watchful eye, is finally ready for the biggest test of his young career. How he handles the pressure under the bright lights against one of the most dangerous welterweights on the planet will be a huge sign of how his future potentially pans out.
Paul Daley, just over three months removed from one of the most entertaining and epic one round fights you'll ever see in your life against Nick Diaz for the welterweight title, is out for blood. The British bomber has his sights set on Woodley, the man who was likely next in line for a title shot before Diaz bolted for the UFC.
Will Woodley wreak havoc on Daley's dubious wrestling defense? Will "Semtex" blast Woodley on the way in with one of the atomic bombs he calls fists? Who will make a statement as the potential next welterweight champion of Strikeforce?
Let's find out:
Record: 8-0 overall, 6-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Tyron Woodley was a standout wrestler at Missouri, earning All-American honors twice while competing and training alongside fellow superstar wrestler and eventual Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren.
Woodley took it slow with his MMA career, fighting seven times as an amateur and winning all seven easily due to his excellent wrestling base. After a quick 2-0 start as a professional on the local circuit in fights that lasted less than two minutes combined, Woodley was invited to participate in his first Strikeforce Challengers event.
Woodley steamrolled through his first three Challengers opponents, submitted each one in less than two rounds. After a tough scrap against Oregon wrestler Nathan Coy that Woodley barely squeaked by with a split decision, he would crush top Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist Andre Galvao in the opening main card bout of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II.
Woodley would fight one last time on the Challengers series against fellow top prospect Tarac Saffiedine out of Team Quest and he would pass this test with flying colors, utilizing his dominant top control wrestling to keep "Sponge" on his back for three straight rounds while avoiding any flashy submissions and sweep attempts.
With the victory, he's slated to take on the biggest test of his career on Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Before striking and submissions come into play, Woodley is a wrestler first. It would be unwise to stand and trade with a dangerous fighter like "Semtex" Daley for extended periods of time.
Look for Woodley to stand with Daley just long enough to find an opening to dive forward for a takedown or clinch attempt. The Missouri native wants to take away Daley's biggest weapons, which are his left and right hands so getting up close and personal is a priority.
If Woodley can put Daley on his back, he'll be well on his way to securing a victory. The Brit has improving takedown defense, but a stellar wrestler like Woodley is still strong and talented enough with his technique to get the job done.
It may not seem like the most entertaining gameplan to copy, but Woodley should pay close attention to what Josh Koscheck was able to do to Daley, take him down, smother him and completely neutralize his power.
Record: 27-10-2 overall, 2-1 in Strikeforce
How he got here: Paul Daley is and has always been one of the nastiest strikers in MMA. He cut his teeth in England's Cage Rage promotion, becoming its welterweight champion and defending the title three times. He then headed over to the States and after a solid start in EliteXC, he was offered a title shot against Jake Shields.
Daley would be overwhelmed by Shields' wrestling and dominating submission attack and after a year of floundering around smaller promotions, he stepped up to fight Martin Kampmann at UFC 103 on short notice when Mike Swick was injured. Daley made an incredible impact, crushing Kampmann in just two and a half minutes when "The Hitman" had been set to fight a number one contender match to challenge for the UFC welterweight title.
After blasting Dustin Hazelett at UFC 108, Daley himself was offered a number one contender fight against Josh Koscheck where he would not only fall short but would completely lose his cool with a post-fight sucker punch that cost him his job with the promotion.
After four straight wins outside the UFC, Daley was offered a title shot against Nick Diaz and his war with the Strikeforce champion was one of 2011's finest fights. Daley would be finished with just three seconds left in the first round after both men traded several knockdowns and wild strikes.
Daley is hoping to redeem himself against one of the most talented young welterweights in Strikeforce.
How he gets it done: Paul Daley is all about the strikes. He's got dynamite in both hands as evidenced by his massive knockout of Scott Smith last December. He's also improved his kicks and knees to the point where they are effective weapons as well.
The goal here is for Daley to keep the fight standing and punish Woodley in the area he still needs some work, his striking.
Daley will have to be a little more cautious with his punches and kicks as anything too aggressive or overcommitting one single blow will have potential to be ducked under and used as an easy takedown attack from his Missouri wrestling challenger.
The smartest thing for Daley to do is keep his distance and work his jab, maybe mix in a few low leg kicks to wear Woodley down. If he can force the wrestler to get desperate, he could find an opening to explode forward and blast him with his power.
Fight "X-Factor" The final outcome of this fight will hinge 100% behind one key element: Paul Daley's takedown defense.
If the Brit can stuff Woodley's takedowns, the odds of him either winning a decision with an accumulation of strikes or scoring a stoppage victory go up drastically. If he's helpless and put on his back repeatedly, the chances that he wins go practically out the window.
Woodley's wrestling is going to be a huge factor here and if he can utilize it properly and take away Daley's big bombs, the fight is his.
Bottom Line: This fight could be very exciting, but more likely than not, it's going to be a one-sided beatdown one way or the other. If Daley can prevent Woodley's takedowns, he'll be able to punish the Missouri wrestling prospect with his fists. If Woodley can take Daley down at will, we might be treated to three straight rounds of "lay and pray."
I'd still recommend watching the fight due to the divisional implications, but the actual match-up itself is not the most desirable. Daley is much more entertaining to watch against fighters who would rather engage with him than put him on his back.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson"? Tell us in the comments below!