THERE weren’t the pre-fight fireworks we were expecting, but Michael “Venom” Page advances to the Bellator World Welterweight Grand Prix semi-finals after edging a unanimous decision win over Paul Daley at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
It was billed as the biggest fight in British MMA history and was the first fight shown live in the UK on Sky Sports, a former gripe amongst the MMA faithful in the UK, but despite a win for Page, and his unbeaten record staying intact and now at 14-0, it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations.
Daley, who fell to 40-17-2, stuck to his gameplan, never engaging on the feet and utilising takedowns, however it was the unconventional Page who found the gaps and got the better of the exchanges on the feet, and the ground, to do enough to earn the victory.
The first round was anything but memorable. Page took the centre of the cage, looking for the opportunity to strike. The Londoner is known for his flamboyance in the cage, as well as a growing reputation for highlight reel stoppages, so Daley, a British MMA icon, simply stayed on the outside in an effort to frustrate him.
The second appeared to be going the same way, as “Semtex” waited and Page pressed. Daley eventually shot for a takedown, which Page initially defended, before securing it on the second attempt. The Nottingham man kept the unbeaten star down until the final seconds of the round, where he caught him with his vaunted left hand and gave him a timely reminder of his own power.
Page immediately pressed on in the third in response, catching Daley with some sharp strikes, including a solid right hand. The smaller Daley needed to get back in close, which he finally did and dragged Page back down to the ground, working some ground-and-pound. Daley landed nothing of real note, mainly just controlling the action, as the two jostled for position.
As we entered the final rounds, Page appeared to know he was potentially down on the scorecards and began to dip into the toolbox. A switch kick caught Daley, who once again got the takedown but Page scrambled back to his feet. A flying knee stunned Daley briefly, so he went for a throw, which ended with him on his back defending himself, as Page was on top as the buzzer sounded.
It was all-square going into the final round and as expected Daley went for the takedown. Page fired up-kicks his way to prevent him getting top position, but Daley secured it regardless. Page made it difficult, first working for a triangle before he controlled Daley’s wrists to stop him letting his hands go.
Page fought his way to his feet, but Daley stayed on him and trapped him up against the cage. Page defended with elbows, however Daley lifted him as he looked for another takedown, which he didn’t get. Page quickly transitioned to Daley’s back, as he looked to end matters with a rear-naked choke. Daley tried to escape but Page kept the pressure on as the fight came to a close.
All three judges saw it in favour of Page, who now advances in the tournament to face Douglas Lima on May 11. There was no customary show of respect at the end of the fight, not even a handshake, and Daley was in no mood to hang around after the announcement.
It was a tough test for Page, who is touted as a future star, not just in Bellator but MMA as a whole. The war of words has brewed for a long time and it was hyped up as a “must-see” fight. It won’t be remembered as such, but it was an important test for Page, which he passed. Lima will be another tough examination as he looks to prove that the hype is real.
Earlier in the night, heavyweight legend Mirko Cro Cop earned a unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson, as did Cheick Kongo, who got the better of Vitaly Minakov, also by unanimous decision. It was a revenge job for Kongo, who was defeated by Minakov back in April 2014 for the Bellator heavyweight title.
Ukrainian Yaroslav Amosov is still undefeated after earning a unanimous decision win over Erick Silva, whilst the performance of the night was from former US Taekwondo champion Valerie Loureda, who stopped Colby Fletcher inside the first round on her Bellator debut.