An established welterweight will take on an established middleweight who's dropping a division this Saturday night (March 3, 2012) as British bomber Paul Daley takes on Sengoku and Pride veteran Kazuo Misaki on the main card of Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey" in Columbus, Ohio.
Daley dropped two tough fights to Nick Diaz and Tyron Woodley in 2011, but has bounced back with consecutive victories outside the promotion. He's determined to climb his way back up to the top of the division and potentially challenge for the vacant welterweight title and he's going to need a strong showing against Misaki to prove it.
Kazuo Misaki has been one of the most exciting Japanese fighters for a long time and his fighting experience against top-level competition is difficult to match. He's been in some of the best fights as a middleweight in the last few years and he's hoping to make a similar impact after dropping to 170 pounds.
Will Daley's explosive power be too much for Misaki on Saturday night? Can Misaki's technique and overall grappling skill diffuse Semtex? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Paul Daley
Record: 29-11-2 overall, 2-2 in Strikeforce
How he got here: Paul Daley is and has always been one of the hardest-hitting 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. "Semtex" made an incredible impact, crushing Kampmann in just two and a half minutes and 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. The Brit was hoping to redeem himself against Tyron Woodley just three months later, but he would be outwrestled over the course of three rounds.
"Semtex" scored two decision wins since and he's getting another shot against top Pride and Sengoku veteran Kazuo Misaki, who's dropping down to welterweight.
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 in late 2010. 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 Misaki in that area. Misaki can bang with the best of them, but I doubt he can afford to stand and exchange bombs with someone as powerful as Daley.
Daley will have to be a little more cautious with his punches and kicks as anything too aggressive or overcommitting one single blow could result in Misaki closing the distance in the clinch or with a takedown attempt. While Misaki is not the wrestler that Koscheck or Woodley were, he is strong enough to potentially pull it off.
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 Misaki down. Once he gets comfortable, that's when he can explode forward and go for the kill with the big power strikes.
Record: 24-11-2 (1 no contest) overall, 1-0 in Strikeforce
How he got here: Kazuo Misaki has been fighting professionally for over 10 years now, and that includes nearly 40 bouts. He started his career in Pancrase where he faced the likes of Chris Lytle, Nate Marquardt, Ed Herman and Jake Shields in competitive battles before transitioning to Pride.
Once in Pride, he was thrown against some of the best in the world at the time, trading wins with Dan Henderson and beating the likes of Phil Baroni and Dennis Kang while losing to Paulo Filho and Frank Trigg. When Pride shut it's doors, Misaki took a fight in America, defeating Joe Riggs in Strikeforce as well as heading to Sengoku where he had some terrific battles.
His pair of five round wars with Jorge Santiago were some of the best fights of the year each time out, especially the rematch which was voted the 2010 Fight of the Year according to Sherdog.
He earned two more wins overseas before signing with Strikeforce again and dropping down to 170 pounds.
How he gets it done: Misaki loves to brawl, but with the weight cut, being 35 years old and the fact that he's taken some significant damage in his recent losses, it would be highly recommended that he not trade big blows with a bomber like Paul Daley.
If he actually does stand with Daley, I would recommend he be much more cautious and if he throws any big strikes, they should be used more for distraction so he can close the distance to initiate a clinch or a takedown attempt.
Dropping down to welterweight, he should be able to at least match Daley's size if not be slightly bigger so if he can put Daley on the canvas, he can go to work with his superior grappling game. One thing he can't afford to do is let "Semtex" get too comfortable in the stand-up or get enough space to throw a really powerful blow.
If he eats something heavy, he'll have to hang on for dear life in the clinch or with takedown attempts if he wants to persevere.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor for this fight to me has to be the fact that Misaki is dropping down to welterweight for the first time. His age, combined with cutting a relatively significant amount of weight plus the damage he's taken in fights like his knockout at the hands of Melvin Manhoef or his TKO loss to Jorge Santiago have to be a cause for concern in terms of his ability to take a big shot.
We've seen time and time again that especially the first time or two that a fighter drops a weight class that they might not have the same chin as before (Ex: Kenny Florian, Scott Smith). If Misaki's chin deteriorates due to the weight cut, it could be a short night if Daley can land anything clean.
Bottom Line: This fight is intriguing as it's a talented grappler/brawler in Misaki against a reputable and very powerful striker in Daley. The battle of Misaki trying to put Daley on the ground and Daley trying to knock Misaki back to Japan should be very interesting. There is a high probability that a finish occurs in this fight so keep your eyes peeled.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey?" Tell us your predictions in the comments below!