Going out with a bang: Retiring Paul Daley delivers one final KO to seal 64-fight legacy
Paul "Semtex" Daley had one more memorable moment to share with the British fans as he bowed out in style in his retirement fight at Bellator 281 in London.
Sometimes fairytale endings do happen.
Leading into Friday night's Bellator 281 main card bout between the retiring Paul "Semtex" Daley and Brazil's Wendell Giacomo, hopes among the British fanbase were high that the Nottingham slugger had it in him to deliver one more finish to bring the curtain down on his MMA career.
But, mid-way through the second round of the matchup at the OVO Arena, there was a palpable murmur of concern from the fans in the stands.
From what they could see, the fight was ebbing away from Daley, who had landed a few grazing shots on Giacomo, but hadn't connected with the sort of power punches that have defined his career and backed up his explosive fighting moniker.
Daley knew otherwise.
After fending off Giacomo's grappling attack for a round and a half, Daley could feel his opponent starting to weaken. The moment to turn the tables was there for the taking, and Daley capitalised. And how.
After superbly reversing position to end up on top, Giacomo shoved Daley out of his guard and into the open.
Daley saw his moment and struck with the sort of thumping punch power that has punctuated his 64-fight MMA career as he unleashed a barrage of vicious shots at his opponent.
It was to be the final flurry of the Brit's career as he hammered Giacomo with punches and finished with a huge right hand that sent the Brazilian crashing to the floor.
Game over for Giacomo. Career over for Daley, and what a way to go out.
Bellator president Scott Coker was gushing with praise for his retiring star during the post-fight scrum, telling me that earlier in his career Daley was jointly responsible for, in his opinion, the greatest MMA fight of all time. Daley's incredible bout with Nick Diaz in Strikeforce remains the ultimate one-round war in MMA history, with Diaz finally getting the best of the Brit after a wild back-and-forth war. Boxing had Hagler vs. Hearns. MMA had Diaz vs. Daley.
Wars were something Daley tended to specialise in. He struggled at times with wrestlers, and his frustration boiled over in one notable moment in defeat to Josh Koscheck. One punch after the bell saw Daley lambasted, then cut by the UFC, never to return. Others have subsequently stayed, and thrived, after much worse.
But when he found himself in a tear-up, there were few fighters more explosive, few more entertaining, than Daley. His career is littered with knockout victories, many due to his heavy hands. But he wasn't purely a puncher – his flying-knee finish of Brennan Ward remains one of the best knockouts in Bellator history.
That reputation as a bona-fide knockout artist meant Daley was must-see TV every time he set foot in the cage. And when he was on, he was really on.
A round and a half into his retirement fight with Giacomo, the fans could have been forgiven for thinking that Daley maybe didn't have the answer to Giacomo's grappling.
But Daley had one final answer. One final flurry. And one final knockout to sign off his incredible legacy as one of the UK's most thrilling fighters.
A pioneer for the sport of MMA in the UK. A legendary knockout artist with a highlight reel that will stand the test of time. And a man who served up knockouts from his first pro bout in June 2003 to his final fight in May 2022.
Paul “Semtex” Daley – explosive from start to finish.
Photo credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA