ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- After nine rounds and 45 minutes of fighting, Daniel Straus took home the latest Bellator featherweight tournament crown with a win over Marlon Sandro. It was far from easy, though, and not without some hold-your-breath moments.
Seconds into the fight Straus connected with a shot to the groin of his Brazilian counterpart that resonated throughout the arena. Sandro used up nearly all of his five-minute recovery allotment, as the bout nearly went the way of the Season 5 heavyweight tournament final between Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos almost six months ago at the very same venue.
“I didn’t want it to stop on my incident,” Straus told Sherdog.com after the Bellator 68 bout. “It was completely accidental. I can’t say I felt bad for him. It just happened. It’s not like I meant to do it. It is part of the sport. I’ve been hit there. Other fighters have been hit there. It does suck. I’m glad I was on the giving end and not the receiving end. Once we had to start fighting that’s just what it was. You have to keep focused.”
At the post-fight press conference Sandro admitted that the shot did affect him but was adamant about not using it as an excuse for his performance.
“Today is Daniel’s day. But next is my day,” he said.
The early groin strike wasn’t the only issue Straus had to deal with during his win. On most scorecards the Cincinnati native was up 20-18 going into the third round. Sandro fought accordingly, even catching Straus in a precarious standing arm-triangle submission about halfway through the final frame.
“It was tight,” Straus said of the submission. “I kind of saw that coming. I thought I could turn the corner fast enough but he closed the distance on the arm triangle. I really couldn’t turn too much. I was cursing him out in my head a lot. It was tight. It would’ve been a wrap [had he tripped me to the ground].”
Having found a lot of success early in his MMA career thanks to his wrestling background, Straus had a harder time using it to his advantage against the experienced Sandro.
“It was extremely tough,” Straus said. “It was actually more or less because of the canvas. It was really slippery. Neither one of us could get a grip. Trying to drive across the cage was really difficult. Changing direction was hard. Not to mention his takedown defense was really good too -- not just because of the canvas.”
Despite the issues with the canvas and Sandro’s takedown defense, Straus was still able to outwork the Brazilian for a unanimous decision. It’s something he attributes to one of the biggest improvements he has made in his game as a fighter to date.
“My striking is not what it could be, but I think it’s improved enough to get me through a lot of these fights -- especially when I step up in competition and take on some of these better strikers,” he said.
With a featherweight title bout tentatively scheduled for August between champion Pat Curran and challenger Patricio Freire, Straus now stands as next in line. Whomever Straus fights he’ll be in a position to avenge a prior loss on his record. Straus lost to Curran in 2009 on an XFO card and dropped a decision to “Pitbull” last year. But regardless of who Straus draws, he’s not worried about the past.
“I don’t really think about avenging nothing. I lost. I was the worst man that day. That’s just what it was. I’m not looking for a grudge fight. I’m just looking to win the title. I’m a different fighter from when I fought both of them,” Straus said. “I fought Pat earlier in my career. I didn’t have too many coaches in my career at the time. I fought “Pitbull” last year, and I’ve stepped up my training since then. Whoever’s got that belt, that’s who I’m going to fight.”