In the third fight of the Strikeforce: Tate vs Rousey Showtime broadcast, Paul Daley (29-11-2, 2-2 SF) takes on former Pride welterweight (183 lb) grand prix winner Kazuo Misaki (24-11-2, 1 NC, 1-0 SF) in a welterweight bout. This is Misaki's debut at 170, and seemingly Daley's as well considering how many times he's missed weight in the past. He made it this time though, and the knockout artist is ready to work his way back to a possible welterweight title shot with a win in Columbus.
Daley has been an enigma for many years now. After taking a few scalps on the British MMA scene, Daley made his Strikeforce debut in 2007, knocking out current UFC fighter Duane Ludwig in the second round. Three more wins in England and America earned him a shot at EliteXC welterweight champion Jake Shields, but he lost by submission. A brutal MFC run where he missed weight twice had people wondering where one of the hardest hitters at 170 would go next. Surprisingly (after two minor league wins), it was the UFC.
Semtex earned his keep in his first UFC fight, stopping UFC on FX 2 winner Martin Kampmann via TKO in one of the only fights I can remember where a dude got stopped without actually falling down. He followed that up with a highlight-reel knockout of Dustin Hazelett, which earned him a big-time fight against Josh Koscheck. Unfortunately for Daley, "The Fraggle" outwrestled him and talked some smack, which led to Daley throwing a punch after the bell and earned him a lifetime ban from the UFC.
After two regional wins (one over SF lightweight Jorge Masvidal in a surprisingly close fight), Semtex was brought back into Strikeforce. An awesome KO of fellow Tate Vs. Rousey fighter Scott Smith earned Daley a title shot against Nick Diaz, and what a fight it was. Daley floored Diaz in the first but couldn't finish, and Diaz came back to stop Semtex late in one of the best rounds of 2011. An uninspired loss to Tyron Woodley afterwards didn't help, but two straight wins have put him back in the title picture.
Kazuo Misaki is one of the best fighters you've never heard of if you're a newer fan. The longtime Pancrase fighter forged a successful career in Pride by winning the 2006 welterweight tourney (albeit as a late replacement - he lost in the semis to pre-crazy Paulo Filho, but came back to beat Denis Kang in the finals). More recently, he participated in two insane battles with Jorge Santiago in the Sengoku organization, both of which were finished in the 5th round. Yeah, he lost both, but you need to watch these fights either way. They're both awesome.
Daley is a big favorite going in due to all the questions about Misaki at the moment. How will he handle the weight cut? Will 10 months off hurt him at all? Is his chin finally cracking after all the wars he fought in Japan? The former judoka doesn't mind striking, but will likely be looking to take the fight to the floor where he can exploit Daley's shaky submission defense. Daley's takedown defense has greatly improved over the years though, so it's going to be very tough for Misaki. Can Daley pick up the 21st knockout of his career? Or will Misaki derail Daley's title aspirations once again? We'll find out tonight.