Daniel Straus enjoys the grind, the process of breaking down the man positioned across from him, the challenge of sapping one’s mind, body and spirit. He carries his resume like a badge of honor: 19 wins, 12 of them by decision.
“I don’t have a lot of flashy submission wins or highlight-reel knockouts,” Straus told Sherdog.com. “I’m a guy that wins a lot of decisions. Everyone thinks they can beat a guy with a bunch of decisions, until you have to fight that guy. I win my fights. That’s what I train for and that’s what I do. That’s what motivates me -- winning. Bottom line.”
Former Sengoku champion Marlon Sandro awaits Straus in the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 6 featherweight tournament final at Bellator 68 on Friday at Caesars Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. The winner receives a $100,000 paycheck, along with a crack at reigning featherweight titleholder Pat Curran. Straus wants a finish, even though he does not expect one to materialize.
“I’m hoping that this fight with Marlon doesn’t have to go to a second or third round,” he said. “If it does, I’m just going to make sure that I’m constantly moving, constantly pressing the action and keeping my hands in his face from start to finish.
“Don’t get me wrong: if I catch Marlon with something, I know I can submit him, but I think the odds are high that I beat him by decision,” Straus added. “Just being real; I know I can finish Marlon, but it’s unlikely. If I catch him with a big punch or kick, I absolutely believe I can knock him out, but, again, it’s just unlikely. The way I see myself winning this fight is staying in his face on the feet and beating him up on the ground.”
Unlike Straus, Sandro has a history of stopping foes in their tracks, many of them in violent fashion. The 35-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt rose to global prominence in 2010, as he scored four first-round knockouts in the span of five fights, three of them in less than a minute. More than one opponent was stretchered. The Nova Uniao representative last appeared at Bellator 64 in April, when he defeated Alexandre Bezerra by split decision in the tournament semifinals.
“I’m not scared of Marlon at all,” Straus said. “I have respect for what he’s been able to accomplish in the sport, but I know I can beat him. To me, he’s just another opponent standing in front of me. I definitely feel like I can beat this guy. I go off of what I’ve seen from him recently and not anything he’s been able to do in the past. The Marlon Sandro that I’ve seen lately, I feel like I can beat that guy.”
Straus, eight years younger than his Brazilian counterpart, believes he has a significant advantage in the conditioning department.
“I feel like I have the bigger gas tank in this fight with Marlon,” he said. “I want to go out there and wear him down. I also feel like I’m bigger, faster, and my punches are a lot straighter, where he tends to throw those big looping punches.
“Every single round in this fight with Marlon, when I go back to my corner, I need to know that I won that round, not that it was a close round or that it could have gone either way,” Straus added. “I need to know every single round, without a doubt, that I dominated Marlon.”
A Team Vision representative based in Ohio, Straus has grown accustomed to the tournament limelight. The 27-year-old Cincinnati native reached the final of the Season 4 draw before losing to Patricio Freire by unanimous decision. It remains his only defeat in his past 16 outings.
“There’s a huge difference between me now and me when I fought Patricio,” Straus said. “The biggest difference is that I believe in myself this time around. It just felt like a blessing to even be in that first tournament final against Patricio, but now I know in my heart that I belong here. Now, being here isn’t enough. I need to win this final and get that belt around my waist.”
Straus advanced to the Season 6 final with wins over the previously unbeaten Jeremy Spoon and Team Curran export Mike Corey, ousting both by unanimous decision.
“I feel like my striking was better than it’s ever been before in my last fight,” he said. “The first punches I threw in that fight ended up dropping [Corey], and I really wasn’t expecting that. I was really pleased that I was able to tag him as much as I did.
“For me to be able to beat guys like Marlon Sandro, Patricio “Pitbull” and Pat Curran, I have to keep getting better,” Straus added. “I was happy that I got the win against Mike in my last fight, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with my performance. I’m never satisfied. I can always get better. That fuels me.”