It’s perhaps not the fight British fans wanted to see – they wanted something a little closer to home (ahem, MVP) – but Saturday’s (September 23) Bellator welterweight match-up between Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley, one of their own, and Lorenz Larkin could prove to be one of the best clashes of 2017.
Both Daley and Larkin are coming off losses – albeit to Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima, respectively – and need a win if they are to keep their title hopes alive. They are also two of the best strikers in the 170lb division, men whose aversion to the ground game can be seen in the way they sigh, roll their eyes and tut whenever an opponent looks to drag them south; and, indeed, the speed with which they are taken down. This time, though, Daley and Larkin can be safe in the knowledge it’s highly unlikely their opposite number will turn a natural striking match into one of the grappling variety.
Even better, in terms of the fight’s allure, is the sudden needle that has emerged as a result of Daley shooting down the credentials of his latest opponent. Before the beef, it was already a can’t-miss fight, one of the best Bellator undercard clashes of the year, but now, with both seemingly at loggerheads, it’s set to take on even greater meaning.
“Obviously I’ve seen him compete in other promotions, but he wasn’t really a guy I ever thought I would fight until he signed with Bellator,” Daley told MMA Junkie to start the whole thing off. “I wasn’t too interested in him. I know there was a whole big thing about who was going to sign him when he became a free agent, but I really didn’t give a s**t. He’s not that interesting of a fighter to me. I’m not really phased by the name or the fact he’s beaten this guy or held a ranking. He’s below the level of fighter that I’m used to fighting.”
Larkin, a dangerous striker who was last seen in the UFC kicking the crap out of Neil Magny en route to a first round TKO, didn’t exactly warm to that appraisal.
“I just don’t like the motherf**ker, man,” was Larkin’s response to MMA Junkie. “I’ve never not liked somebody like this guy. I’ve never had a problem in my whole career with a fighter. This is a fighter that I genuinely don’t like. That’s the whole reason for all of this.”
That’s one reason, yes. The reason why the fight gathers momentum in fight week. But, ultimately, when all is said and done, Daley and Larkin are fighting this weekend because they are essentially flipsides of the same coin. Better than that, they are seemingly made for one another; put them together and there’s no fear of either man flattering to deceive, which is to say being taken down and stifled. They can fight with a smile on their face. They can relax. Trust the other guy. Do what they do best.
Make no mistake, striking is what they do best. Combined, the pair have 40 knockouts from 57 career victories. They have enough knockout wins to make a feature length film of a traditionally short and straightforward highlight reel. Daley, in particular, can boast one of the knockouts of 2017 thanks to a stunning finish of Brennan Ward back in January.
Chances are, another contender for this award could arrive on Saturday night in California. Certainly, all the signs point to an explosive fight and a conclusive finish. It’s what these men do, it’s their modus operandi, and only the reticence of past opponents has prevented them doing what they enjoy doing.
No such concerns with this one. Nor excuses. Daley and Larkin are getting exactly what they want. And so too are we.