Say what you will about Paul Daley, but the man has been a must-see attraction for more than a decade, his left hook alone oftentimes worth the price of admission.
Daley will step into a headlining role in Bellator MMA when he faces Andy Uhrich in the Bellator 148 main event on Friday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. While the significance the bout carries in Bellator’s welterweight division remains subject to debate, it nevertheless features one of MMA’s most prolific knockout artists. Of Daley’s 37 professional victories, 27 have come by knockout or technical knockout.
A former Cage Rage champion who has fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Strikeforce and EliteXC, the well-traveled Daley has been on a tear since his surprising decision loss to Alexander Yakovlev in November 2013. The 32-year-old Englishman has strung together four straight wins, three of them finishes. Daley last appeared at Bellator 140 on July 17, when he disposed of Dennis Olson with second-round punches at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Wins over Jorge Masvidal, Martin Kampmann and John Alessio anchor his resume.
Uhrich owns a 1-2 mark in Bellator but has built some momentum in recent months. The 30-year-old will enter the cage on the strength of a three-fight winning streak that includes a split decision over Bobby Cooper under the Titan Fighting Championship banner in March. Uhrich appeared on Bellator’s “Fight Master” reality series before an eye injury forced him to bow out of the competition.
With the Daley-Uhrich showdown on the marquee, here is what to watch for at Bellator 148:
Chris Honeycutt and Paul Bradley have been down this road before.
The two NCAA All-American wrestlers met at Bellator 140 in July, only to have it end prematurely due to an inadvertent clash of heads 2:47 into the second round. The no-contest paved the way for an immediate rematch, this time in a co-feature.
The unbeaten Honeycutt was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler and 2012 NCAA finalist at Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, where he still ranks sixth on the school’s all-time list in winning percentage (.855) and seventh in career wins (130), two ahead of Josh Koscheck. Prior to his first encounter with Bradley, the Dethrone Base Camp export had finished five of his first six opponents. At 27, Honeycutt appears primed to make waves in Bellator’s welterweight division.
A former Ring of Combat champion, Bradley was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Iowa. The 32-year-old Tama, Iowa, native started his career on a run of 11 consecutive victories but has gone just 11-6 since.
Bellator’s heavyweight division has become something of a wasteland, leaving the door wide open for rising contenders like Tony Johnson.
A former King of the Cage champion, Johnson has won five of his last six bouts, including wins over current UFC heavyweight Derrick Lewis, two-time UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia and onetime Bellator heavyweight titleholder Alexander Volkov. The 29-year-old American Kickboxing Academy representative has suffered only two career defeats, one of which was to Daniel Cormier. Johnson wrestled collegiately at Iowa State University, where he also played football before transitioning to MMA.
In Raphael Butler, he confronts a pro boxer and former national Golden Gloves champion who has begun to make strides in other areas. Butler last fought at Bellator 134 in February, when he needed little more than a minute to tap Josh Diekmann with a guillotine choke.
Patricky Freire and Ryan Couture are lightweights headed in opposite directions, yet their paths will cross in a pivotal 155-pound showcase.
The younger brother of former Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire, “Pitbull” has thus far failed to establish any real consistency within the promotion. A two-time lightweight tournament finalist, the 30-year-old Brazilian has lost two of his last three fights, the latest setback a split decision loss to Derek Anderson in their Dec. 4 rematch. Despite his latest hiccups, Freire remains a threat on the feet, as evidenced by his violent knockouts against David Rickels, Toby Imada, Derek Campos and Ryan McCullough.
Couture has rattled off four consecutive victories, all by rear-naked choke submission. The 33-year-old son of UFC hall of famer Randy Couture made Dakota Cochrane his latest victim at Bellator 135 in March.
From B.J. Penn to Max Holloway, Hawaiians have a long and storied history in mixed martial arts. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane wants to be a part of it.
The women’s flyweight prospect -- she authored the infamous “Soccer Mom KO” inside the Xplode Fight Series promotion a year ago -- will put her 2-0 record on the line against Amber Tackett on the undercard. Macfarlane made her organizational debut opposite Mario Rios at Bellator 141 on Aug. 28, escaping with a split decision. Operating out of the Team Hurricane Awesome camp, she went 5-0 as an amateur.
Tackett returned from a seven-year absence in October, when she took a unanimous decision from Corina Herrera at a regional event in California.