ST. LOUIS—Paul Daley made a triumphant and violent return to the Strikeforce promotion this evening inside the Scottrade Center in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.

It took him just two minutes and nine seconds to knockout fellow striker Scott Smith, who was fighting at the welterweight limit for the first time in his career.

It was a perfectly timed left hook that landed flush on the chin of Smith as he came forward that did all the damage.

The blow sent Smith face first into the canvas where he remained motionless as Daley celebrated the win by taking a quiet stroll around the cage.

This is exactly the type of performance Daley can deliver when he is on.

The fight officially concluded Daley’s 2010 campaign, which was up and down, to say the least.

The “down” was him losing the UFC welterweight No. 1 contender fight against Josh Koscheck at UFC 113 and getting cut from the promotion after he attempted to sucker punch Koscheck after the bell in the third and final round.

He was essentially exiled to Australia to pursue his next fight under the Impact FC banner. He won a submission victory over Daniel Acacio in July of this year.

He then followed it up with a lackluster and razor-thin unanimous decision win over Jorge Masvidal in September under the Shine Fights banner.

His name value, resume, skill set and the two back-to-back victories earned him a contract to fight for Strikeforce.

Before the ink dried on the paperwork he was immediately ushered to the top tier of the welterweight division amidst the fray.

Smith was designated as his first test and he passed with flying colors.

“It was a good fight with a tough guy. I was expecting a quick fight and it was. I always thought I had it in me to knock Scott Smith out and I did. Like I said at the pre-fight press conference, he isn’t Rocky and this isn’t a movie,” said Daley at the post-fight press conference.

The aforementioned left hook that ended Smith’s night so suddenly is arguably Daley’s biggest weapon over the years.

UFC fans will remember his thunderous left hook knockout victory over Dustin Hazelett at UFC 108.

“I thought it [the left hook] would play a part in the fight. My corner was calling for the left hook, right straight. I threw it as one of my first combinations and I had him rocked. I have seen in previous fights that there was an opportunity to come over his right hand with a left hook when he threw it kind of slow and heavy on his feet,” said Daley.

A victory over Scott Smith will propel Daley likely one more win away from a title shot against current champion Nick Diaz.

There are only a handful of other worthy challengers for him at this point in time.

Daley, however, has his mind set on one name and one name only—K. J. Noons.

“I think he is one of the bigger names here. Strikeforce put a lot of money behind him promoting him. I’ll knock him out and take his fans. Also, he just fought for the title. It took Nick Diaz five rounds to get rid of him. It went to a decision. Honestly, without being big headed…well, just a bit big headed, I think I would knock K. J. out within five minutes in the first round. I don’t think K. J.’s on my level. He calls himself a striker. When he steps in the cage with me he’ll see he’s not a striker.”

Strikeforce President Scott Coker did address the potential Daley-Noons matchup, but did not seem all that enthused about the possibility.

“I think we’ve proven ourselves over and over that we’re willing to put our best fighters in there with our champions or other great fighters. We’ll have a talk with K. J. I still think he’s injured right now, but we’ll definitely have a conversation with him. In the meantime we’ll have a couple other guys that are on that list that Paul can fight.”

With Tyron Woodley booked to fight Tarec Saffiedine on January 7, 2011 in Nashville only one logical name remains.

That of Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.

Santos is 1–0 at the 170-pound limit and is coming off a first-round knockout of DREAM welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis in June 2010.

It would be an aesthetically pleasing fight for the fans and an appropriate next step for Daley.

Look for “Semtex” to descend on a city near you in early 2011.

And when he does, be certain not to blink.

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Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, MMAmania.com, and FIGHT! Magazine (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at [MENTION=7646]derek[/MENTION]Bolender.