Photo of Paul Daley (L) and Kazuo Misaki (R) at the recent Strikeforce weigh in courtesy of Esther Lin via SHOSports.
Don’t go to the fridge when Paul Daley’s fighting, because the British bomber has delivered some of the most memorable knockouts in recent mixed martial arts (MMA) history. Vicious stoppages of Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett seemed to usher in a potential Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) star, but his disappointing decision loss to Josh Koscheck, and subsequent post-fight assault of "Kos," got him cut from the organization.
Tonight (March 3, 2012), "Semtex" and his punching power will once again be on display when he takes on Kazuo Misaki at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, during a Welterweight scrap that will air live on Showtime.
Misaki has proven one of the more reliable mid-tier middleweight contenders in recent years that few stateside fans are familiar with. Experienced and crafty, he relies on quickness and exploiting openings rather than brute force.
In other words, he's the complete opposite of Daley.
Daley’s epic one-round war with Nick Diaz remains one of the most thrilling fights in Strikeforce history, but he came up short there, too. Since then, Daley’s been blanketed by Tyron Woodley to a decision loss, and took two judges’ nods in subsequent fights. He’s not one-dimensional, as his takedown defense and grappling have proven serviceable, but it just seems like he can’t get over that next level of opposition, especially when faced with a good wrestler.
The weight cut is a factor for both, for different reasons – Daley is notorious for having trouble making the 170-pound limit, while Misaki is reducing down after a long career at Middleweight, where he was clearly undersized, like most Japanese fighters.
Stamina is always a factor in fights, but Daley’s style in this matchup probably reduces its importance – he’s either going to nail Misaki early or lose anyways. He’s not likely to take a decision here, as Misaki is too clever and versatile, especially on the ground.
Daley’s huge punching power, particularly with his left hand, is something you’re born with, and very few of us, at that. His upper-body strength is a key element in how he shucks off takedowns, as he has the frame of a middleweight. He’ll disengage, step back and unload on opponents.
Misaki’s best chance in the standing game is to use low-risk, high-percentage kicks, such as teeps and lower leg strikes, to keep Daley guessing and worried about different levels Misaki is attacking. Assuming Kazuo makes the weight cut comfortably (always a big ‘if’ when a fighter drops down a weight class), he can spend some time figuring out Daley’s timing on the feet, which is a huge factor.
When Daley catches people early, they tend to go to sleep. Misaki’s mix of kicks, spry movement, and changing angles will also help him get a bead on when to eventually tie up and force a clinch, so he can work for a takedown. It’s doubtful Misaki can get the first one, as Daley’s exceptionally strong, but Daley seems to lose stamina quickly in extended grappling exchanges, often getting frustrated, as Woodley and Jake Shields were able to do. He will look like hell on wheels, but go through a half-life of effectiveness, ultimately getting taken down where he seems to wilt once he realizes, yet again, he’s planted on the mat out of his comfort zone.
This is definitely a fight Daley can win, but Misaki is exceptionally durable and a tough veteran. He’ll have too many riddles, angles and options, and he’ll dictate and dominate with takedowns and measured ground work to grind out a decision win.
Misaki via decision
Be sure to join MMAmania.com later this evening for LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the Strikeforce main card action, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8:00 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Showtime Extreme.
See you then!
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst.