Two dangerous welterweights were hoping to either contend or return to contention last night (March 3, 2012) as Pride and Sengoku veteran Kazuo Misaki took on former Strikeforce title contender Paul Daley in what was expected to be an action-packed showdown on the Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey" main card.
While the powerful Daley, having earned his "Semtex" nickname for his explosive style and knockout power, was expecting a cakewalk against an aging Japanese veteran, he perhaps bit off more than he could chew.
A rejuvenated Misaki, cutting down to welterweight for the first time looked like a new man and had his British opponent on the defensive early and often en route to winning a split decision victory.
So how did Misaki pull off the major upset? And what happens next for both fighters?
Follow me after the jump for our Kazuo Misaki vs. Paul Daley Strikeforce: "Tate vs. Rousey" post-fight review and analysis:
From the onset, the normally aggressive Daley was extremely tentative, not throwing any of his punches with bad intentions as Misaki grew more and more comfortable. After two minutes, Misaki had had enough and he showed initiative, lunging forward and putting "Semtex" on the defensive, securing a solid takedown, however brief, which may have messed with Daley's head.
Daley never found his groove in the fight. In perhaps the biggest surprise of all, while his striking was going nowhere, he actually would occasionally change levels and shoot for takedowns, putting Misaki on his back at least three separate times throughout the fight, although his offensive attack mainly ended with the takedowns.
One exception to that was a slicing elbow from top position which Daley connected solidly against Misaki's brow and opened up a nasty cut and threatened to have the fight stopped by the doctor.
However, Misaki was allowed to continue and he went right back to work in putting on a show. On the feet, he was lighter than Daley, had better balance, movement and his strikes were significantly more diverse. He threw everything from wild looping hooks to short jabs, elbows, kicks and knees. He was very hard to predict for the Brit.
Daley never got going in the stand-up. The only strike that was doing anything for him all night was his lead left hand, but he could never follow up and despite Misaki having been stopped via strikes in his prior two high profile bouts, "Semtex" was never able to even stun him with a major blow.
Thus, when the scores were announced, Misaki was granted the victory to a stunned Daley, who must have felt his takedowns had been enough. In my opinion, it was pretty embarrassing that one judges sided with Daley in the first place. Misaki's victory should have been unanimous.
For Paul Daley, he's now lost three straight in the Strikeforce welterweight division. While he's had some exciting moments, his last two fights have left quite a bit to be desired and he really doesn't look like he's improving at all. For this fight, it appeared that he seemed so intent on trying to improve his wrestling that his striking was allowed to stagnate and even though he scored some takedowns, he wasn't able to pass guard or do much with them.
Daley can talk a mean game, but his ability to contend is going straight down the toilet. It's unlikely that he'll be returning to Strikeforce but if he does, I doubt he faces anyone other than a fighter on a losing streak or perhaps a prospect Strikeforce is hoping to build up. If he fights again, maybe Jordan Mein would make sense, or maybe someone like Tyler Stinson.
For Kazuo Misaki, he looked like a new man out there. I'll be the first to admit that I completely underestimated him heading into this fight, writing off the weight cut as an act of desperation to extend his career, but I'll eat gladly eat some crow. The Japanese journeyman looked in tip-top shape, was diverse with his attack and actually put on a pretty darn good show for the fans. He may have been disappointed in his performance for not getting a finish as he stated in his post-fight interview, but this was a breath of fresh air and perhaps he could earn a big fight in the promotion or even a title shot. The only cause for concern was his lack of defensive wrestling as he was taken down on multiple occasions by a fighter who doesn't exactly have the reputation of a man who's got great takedowns.
I'd like to see Misaki face someone along the lines of Tarec Saffiedine next. If that doesn't work, the promotion could always throw him into a rematch with recently resigned Nate Marquardt where he would have an opportunity to avenge a 2004 decision loss. Lastly, with a dearth of fresh challengers, he could always get a shot at the vacant title against Tyron Woodley, although his takedown defense would absolutely need to improve.
Either way, welcome to America and congratulations for a success debut are in order for "Hitman."
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you surprised that Misaki was not only able to stand toe-to-toe with Daley, but he also forced "Semtex" to try to take the fight to the ground? Do you think the Japanese veteran can be a factor in the Strikeforce welterweight division?