Fighters Only reports that a verbal agreement is in place for former UFC welterweight Paul Daley to take on DEEP champion Yuya Shirai as the BAMMA 5 headliner, scheduled for February 26th at the Manchester Evening News Arena.
Assuming that the bout goes ahead, Shirai will surely be the heavy underdog as he takes on a physically stronger fighter, who is near unanimously considered a top ten welterweight. Daley’s power is unquestioned, and was emphatically demonstrated in his most recent fight against Scott Smith in Strikeforce. His traditionally weaker area has been the ground game, a fact sure to inform Shirai’s strategy- particularly considering his Judo background.
Shirai is on a five-fight win streak, with his last bout being a unanimous decision victory over Shigetoshi Iwase at DEEP 50. He also owns a recent win over another Brit in the form of Che Mills, via armbar.
Daley is of course still a Strikeforce fighter and contender, a situation acknowledged by CEO Scott Coker on MMAWeekly Radio:
“Paul has requested to have a fight in the UK, and our deal with Paul we have to sign off on it, and we have to have an opponent approval,”
Coker went on to confirm that Daley is the number one contender for the Strikeforce welterweight title, due to face the winner of Nick Diaz vs Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos.
The marketing, as well as fan expectations, for the BAMMA main event are likely to be heavily skewed in Daley’s favour- he is the far bigger name, the more highly regarded fighter and will be bolstered by local support for the first time in two years. Shirai will have to drag Daley away from his devastating stand-up game if he is to enjoy underdog success and claim a highly prized scrap. He may also hope that Daley falls prey to hubris, treating the fight as a chance to reintroduce himself to his UK fans and as a gentle warm up for a more prestigious Strkeforce title clash rather than showing his opponent the requisite respect.