Daniel Straus hasn’t been sleeping so well lately. May 11 just cannot get here fast enough for the featherweight fighter.

“Every once in a while, I just get so worked up in a fight, just thinking about the fight and wanting to fight so much, wishing that today was fight day and how bad I can’t wait to get in the ring with this guy,” Straus told The MMA Corner. “I just keep thinking about it and thinking about it, and the next thing I know, it’s two or three o’clock in the morning.”

That anticipation stems from his upcoming bout against Marlon Sandro, set for Bellator 68 in Atlantic City, N.J. It’s an important fight, with the winner crowned as the promotion’s season-six featherweight tournament winner. The victor also secures a shot at the Bellator 155-pound title belt, currently held by Pat Curran.

“I was a different fighter when I fought Pat,” said Straus, who as a six-fight veteran suffered a knockout loss to Curran at an XFO event in April of 2009. “I didn’t really have any coaches at the time. I’m definitely a different fighter from when we fought. That loss happened and I just got over it—it is what it is. I’m not looking for a grudge match. I’m not looking for a revenge match or anything like that.”

Straus has spent 30 minutes in the Bellator cage through the course of this season’s tournament, emerging with two unanimous decision wins on his hunt for that title bid. Straus outpointed Jeremy Spoon in the tourney’s opening round and rocked—but could not finish—Mike Corey en route to the semifinal round victory. The two wins moved Straus’ career mark to 19-4 and raised the number of decision wins on his resume to 12.

“I’ve always wanted to finish guys,” Straus stated. “I think people get the misconception that I only like going to the decision. I just don’t have a problem going to the decision. With the Jeremy Spoon fight, at one point I tried to go for the choke, but it wasn’t there. It’s not that I played it safe, I just played it in a different direction than some people would. When it came to Mike Corey, when I dropped him in the first round, he bounced back up and I couldn’t finish him there. So I decided that (I’d) take a step back and re-focus what I was doing.”

“I’m not one to put myself in a bad position to win a fight, and I feel like sometimes a lot of these guys do. To win fights, they try to finish and try to finish, and they put themselves in a bad spot and get caught. I just don’t want to be that person. I would rather win a good, hard 15-minute fight than gas out trying to knock a guy out or whatever.”

Straus (L) fights Mike Corey at Bellator 65 (Bellator Fighting Championships)

Going to the judges’ scorecards is almost a sign of certain victory for Straus. He’s awaited the reading of the scores 13 times, and his hand has only remained down at his side once. The one time the judges sided with his opponent came in the finals of Bellator’s season-four featherweight tournament, where Patricio “Pitbull” Freire snapped Straus’ 12-fight winning streak.

Following the loss, Straus ventured outside of the Bellator promotion to accept a fight against The Ultimate Fighter 9 alum Jason Dent. The fight, held under the NAAFS banner, was a title unification bout for the promotion’s Pro Series lightweight championship. Straus worked his way to another decision win, but to him it wasn’t a key fight in rebounding from the loss to Freire.

“I felt like once I lose, that’s just what it is—it’s a loss and I don’t think about it again,” Straus confessed. “Just like when I win, it’s a win and I don’t think about it again.”

“I never think about bouncing back from a loss; I just think about winning each fight.”

Returning to Bellator’s tournament for another run in season six and progressing to the finals puts Straus across the cage from former Sengoku featherweight kingpin Marlon Sandro, another veteran of Bellator’s tournament format—the Brazilian lost to current champ Pat Curran in the finals of Bellator’s 2011 Summer Series bracket. Sandro, a Nova Uniao product, holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but also has a dangerous set of hands.

“I’m going to try to get the win—if it causes me to wrestle with him, then that’s what I’ll do,” Straus said. “His takedown defense is good, but it’s not as good as my wrestling. And I think my stand-up is just a little bit crisper than his, so I think either way it goes I think I might have the slight advantage.”

Straus usually calls the Ohio-based Team Vision home, but he has traveled south to Florida and the American Top Team gym to train for this tournament. Although he remains loyal to Team Vision, he realizes that with obstacles such as Sandro in his path, he must seek out the best training partners possible.

“(Team Vision) is a small gym; we have some great guys there, but once you start entering top-tier competition, just staying at home just isn’t good enough,” explained Straus. “I made the decision to come down. I was welcomed with open arms by the guys down here.”

“It’s just been great. I like being down here. I love being a part of American Top Team just as much as I liked being a part of Team Vision back home. Having both those teams in my corner is just a blessing.”

Straus (L) attempts a flying knee against Jeremy Spoon at Belltor 60 (Bellator Fighting Championships)

Despite a background in wrestling, Straus has shown a willingness to grind out victories in stand-up battles against the likes of Spoon and Corey. While Sandro packs a ton of power behind his punches, Straus is confident in his own hands and believes that this is a game of exploiting Sandro’s weaknesses and beating him to the punch.

“He has holes in his game, just like any other opponent that I’ve fought—just like I do,” said Straus. “It’s just who can get off better. Who can pull that trigger first. Who can get off those blocks first and impose their game.”

Sandro quickly disposed of Roberto Vargas via submission in the tournament’s opening round, but just eked out a split decision in the semifinals against Alexandre Bezerra. Straus watched that semifinal battle and believes that if Bezerra could have performed in the first two rounds as he did in the last, he could have defeated Sandro. However, Straus notes, Sandro was able to keep Bezerra at a certain distance, leading to the Sengoku veteran’s razor-thin victory.

“In a fight between us, it’s not going to be as easy to keep me where he wants me to be at,” Straus said. “I can’t change the fact that he hits hard, but I can change the fact if I get hit or not.”

In just a matter of nights, Straus’ anticipation will culminate when he sets foot inside the cage with Sandro. Perhaps after, when Straus’ head hits the pillow that night and he shuts his eyes, sleep will come easier. But then, with a win over Sandro, there’s always that title shot to start thinking about.

Daniel would like to thank all his friends, family and fans, and everyone who has been supportive and believed in him. He’d also like to thank Contract Killer, BangTown Fightwear, ML Management Group, Brian Furby and The Matthew Wellington Group, Vision MMA and American Top Team. Follow Daniel on Twitter: @DanielStraus

Top Photo: Daniel Straus (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)