Chicago, Illinois’ Sears Center plays host to one of the year’s most spectacular cards when Strikeforce and M-1 Global come together to present Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson. “Hands of Steel” Scott Smith (16-8) takes on “Sponge” Tarec Saffiedine (10-2) in a welterweight battle. Two crowd favorites collide when US Army veteran Tim Kennedy (14-3) is granted his wish to fight knockout artist “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (18-7). The ladies grace the Windy City when “Takedown” Miesha Tate (11-2) challenges Marloes Coenen (17-4) for the female 135lbs. welterweight title. In the main event, “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-3) meets Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion “Dangerous” Dan Henderson (27-8) in a catchweight battle that fulfills a long-time PRIDE FC fantasy. In the middle of all this action, former Strikeforce welterweight contender “Semtex” Paul Daley (24-11-2) hopes to let his hands bring him back to title contention when he fights up-and-coming prospect “T-Wood” Tyron Woodley (10-0). Daley’s hands are a weapon in itself but the unforgiving wrestling of Woodley leaves many smothered before tapping out. Now with former welterweight champion “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (24-8) vacating the title challenge reigning 170lbs. king “Rush” Georges St. Pierre (22-2) under the UFC banner, a win for either fighter would pull them closer to a shot at the belt.
At First Glance: The makings of the classic striker vs. grappler match-up come by way of Daley and Woodley, respectively. A vast majority of Daley’s wins come through his instantaneous knockout power that, since his departure from the UFC in 2010, has taken the likes of Scott Smith and Yuya Shirai (13-9) out of commission. In his 24 victories, 18 have come via (T)KO. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Woodley’s collegiate-level wrestling has been the driving force behind his fights and have lead to numerous submission and (T)KO victories as Rudy Bears (13-7) and Andre Galvao (5-2) have found out. For Woodley, Paul Daley is a step up in competition that he has to take extremely seriously. Woodley has faced many strikers before but none with the power Daley possesses. To knock off a former title contender would easily solidify Woodley as a contender within the 170lbs. ranks. If he lets this opportunity slip through his fingers though, he will not only lose steam in his campaign for a title but he could be left on the mat staring at the ceiling.
In Depth:Simplicity is at its best when Daley and Woodley meet in the cage: Daley plans to keep the fight standing, Woodley wants it on the ground. Semtex is a plastic explosive used in military operations or demolition. It is no surprise then that this weapon is Daley’s moniker considering that one punch from him is all it takes for the fight to come to a close. A left hook from the Brit caused “The Hitman” Martin Kampmann (17-5) to cover up as Daley unleashed more strikes in his debut at UFC 103. Four months later, UFC 108 saw the very same left hook put Jiu-Jitsu ace “McLovin” Dustin Hazelett (15-7) on the mat just to be finished off moments later. While Daley showed that he has a ground game in his fight with “Gamebred” Jorge Masvidal (20-6) where he was able to fight back onto his feet, he is still prone to being controlled and submitted easily against the upper echelon of grapplers just as Jake Shields (26-5-1) and “Kos” Josh Koscheck (15-5) have shown. Here, Tyron Woodley holds the significant advantage. Superior striker Tarec Saffiedine was rendered helpless for the most part in his battle with Woodley. Controlled for all three rounds, Saffiedine found himself on the receiving end of Woodley’s strikes right before being taken down and handled by the Big 12 Conference champion. Each fighter bears some level of skill in regard to the other’s strengths but staying true to their roots is what will decide the outcome of the fight. If Daley thinks he can out-wrestle or submit Woodley, most likely he will end up as such. Likewise, Woodley’s rudimentary striking might be tightening up but if turning the fight into a stand-up war is in his intentions, experience supports Daley winning that exchange more often than not.
Wild Card: Daley will enjoy a nice three-inch reach advantage over Woodley which he will have to exploit to a T. As the better striker, Daley needs to turn the bout into as close of a stand-up war as he can. Woodley’s wrestling pedigree virtually guarantees he will succeed with a takedown if he is close enough to shoot in whether it is from catching a kick from range or when engaged in the clinch. As long as Daley can utilize his stiff yet powerful jab to set his combinations and keep Woodley at arm’s length, he can ultimately finish the fight with the knockout potential he is known for.
The Verdict: As one-dimensional as Daley truly is, he is true threat for Tyron Woodley. He bears the explosive striking that puts fights into perspective for those on the receiving end and before they can adjust accordingly, it is already too late. Woodley may not have the full arsenal of strikes at his disposal, but given eight of his ten stoppage wins came through his wrestling, he can provide a formidable opponent for “Semtex”. Seeing as every fight starts standing, expect a few exchanges to take place with Daley coming out on top throughout most of them. However in the end, Daley’s weakness in wrestling will likely result in his undoing and with a guy who actively seeks to end the fight, the tapping trifecta will kick off the start for Woodley’s jump from “prospect” to “contender”. Woodley via Submission (Rear Naked Choke), Round 2