Few seem to outwardly relish rendering men unconscious as punch as Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley. The Nottingham-native, who headlines Bellator 179 tonight (May 19) against Rory MacDonald, has achieved 29 or his 39 MMA wins via knockout and 14 of his 21 kickboxing wins via knockout. All in all, his reputation as one of the hardest one-shot punchers in combat sports is not only secure, it’s also warranted, supported by a grisly portfolio of evidence.
Earlier this year, Daley registered an early contender for ‘Knockout of 2017’ when he married poor Brennan Ward’s chin with his flying knee and left the American sprawled on the canvas at Bellator 170. It was, for Daley, an addition to a highlight reel, one that already contained the scalps of Martin Kampmann, Dustin Hazelett, Scott Smith, Duane Ludwig, John Alessio and Mark Weir.
“Sometimes I can be slightly arrogant and say, ‘I knew it was going to happen,’” he says. “I’m so confident in my punch power that when I land the shot it’s like, ‘Well, I told you all I was going to do that.’ But sometimes, when I feel like I’m the underdog and people are doubting me, that’s when I get the rush. It’s not a case of, ‘I told you so.’ It’s more like, ‘I proved you wrong.’ That’s the best feeling, when I knock someone out and I’m the underdog.”
In the eyes of many, Daley goes into tonight’s fight with MacDonald, a talented former UFC welterweight title challenger, as an underdog. No, not a heavy one, but an underdog nonetheless. It is this way because Daley, for all his power and explosiveness, has long had to battle the stigma that he is one-dimensional; supposedly, if an opponent can work around his concussive hands, they have every chance of besting him.
MacDonald, of course, is a man whose fighting experience belies his age – twenty-seven – and a man who has, since childhood, worked on every facet of mixed martial arts in an effort to become one of the most complete fighters in the game.
“I see this as a battle of fighters,” says ‘Semtex’. “I think Rory has the fight different in his head. He sees it as a battle of striker against a well-rounded guy. He is well-rounded but I’ve always been put in this box of being a striker. The thing is, you don’t come fifteen years in this game just purely being a striker. I don’t train for fights just doing kickboxing and boxing. I think it’s going to be very different to how he expects.”
As for what Daley expects, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. He expects MacDonald to go the way of so many Daley opponents who have tasted his power in the early going and then swiftly attempted to drag the fight south and get the Englishman off his feet. Some, however, believe MacDonald, coming off back-to-back UFC losses, might look to prove a point, perhaps make a statement, and try to knock Daley out in his home country.
“That would be the worst thing he could do,” says Daley, shaking his head. “Everybody thinks that. They think they’ve seen me fight or train and are underestimating what it’s like to be in there with me. The last opponent (Ward) did. Even Douglas Lima underestimated me. He dropped me in the first thirty seconds because I was rushing, but backstage he was like, ‘Fuck, man…’ For him, a big, athletic guy who has fought all these good fighters, to say the things he was saying to me… I know I’m more than what people think when they get in there.
“If Rory chooses to stand with me, it will be a very short night. Brennan Ward found that out. He was a good wrestler, an NCAA division one wrestler, and can finish fights on the ground and knock people out standing. But, shit, when he felt that first shot, he was shooting in.”