The second part of Bellator’s double-header this weekend, Bellator 216 goes down on Saturday night live from Uncasville, Connecticut. This one is clearly the stronger card of the two, with a marquee main event and big names – albeit names past their prime – filling the televised undercard.
The event will air on DAZN’s live streaming service in the US, and – for the first time ever – in the UK it will air live on Sky Sports. That’s a massive move for Scott Coker’s promotion into the UK market and so he’ll be hoping the fighters on show deliver big time here.
Here are the predicted outcomes for Bellator 216: MVP vs. Daley.
#1. Michael Page vs. Paul Daley
A fight that feels like it’s been talked about for years, this battle of brash British strikers makes total sense as the first Bellator main event to air live in the UK on Sky Sports. It also marks the third quarter-final match of Bellator’s Welterweight Grand Prix, with the winner going on to face Douglas Lima at an undetermined point in the future.
This should be an exciting fight, but who will come out on top? Will Page finally live up to the massive hype surrounding him and take out a genuinely strong opponent? Or will ‘Semtex’ burst his bubble and make him another victim of his incredibly heavy hands?
Daley has of course been one of the highest ranked Welterweights competing outside the UFC for years now, dating back to his 2010 release from the promotion following his post-fight sucker punch of Josh Koscheck. And over that decade, his game has largely remained the same; he’s an incredibly powerful Muay Thai striker with vicious power in almost every strike he throws.
His best strike is probably the nasty left hook he used to knock out the likes of Scott Smith and Dustin Hazelett, but he’s pretty indiscriminate, to be honest – his right hook is just as deadly and he’s also used knees, elbows and low kicks to carve up his opponents. A Bellator staple since 2015, Daley has knocked out the likes of Lorenz Larkin and Brennan Ward in the promotion, but he’s also had a few issues.
Those issues, unsurprisingly, have always come from his grappling skills, or lack thereof. It’s not that ‘Semtex’ is a bad grappler per se, but against top wrestlers, he’s traditionally struggled and was recently beaten by Jon Fitch in classic Jon Fitch fashion. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be an issue for him in this fight as Michael Page is almost exclusively a striker – outside of a strange win via Achilles lock in 2016.
Interestingly enough though, Page as a striker is almost the antithesis of Daley. Where Daley is all classical Muay Thai – clinch attacks with knees and elbows, low kicks and winging hooks – Page is completely unorthodox, even more so than Anderson Silva or Israel Adesanya.
He deploys the same counter-based distance striking game as those two fighters, but even Silva in his prime would likely frown at the amount of “clowning” that ‘Venom’ uses during his fights.
There’s no denying it’s served him well in his career thus far, and his self-professed ‘hands-down kickboxing’ hasn’t bounced back to hurt him just yet, but to be quite frank, he’s been one of the most protected fighters in the sport for years now.
Facing low-level opponents in his early days in the UK was understandable, but he’s been in Bellator now since 2014 and his best foe there? Probably ‘Cyborg’ Santos or David Rickels, who is a natural 155lber.
It’s largely been inexcusable matchmaking on the behalf of Bellator, but to be fair to Page, you can only beat who’s put in front of you, and for the most part, he’s done that in devastating fashion. Having said that, his fight against Fernando Gonzalez – a tough veteran – in 2016 was hugely disappointing, as both men did very little after Gonzalez refused to play into Page’s hands and really open up. Page won a split decision, but really, the fight did him more harm than good.
The interesting question for Saturday then is how does Daley approach this one? He’s usually highly aggressive, even if he’s also a very effective counterpuncher. Page has already shown in the Gonzalez fight that he’s willing to enter into a low-output fight if his opponent won’t come to him, and despite the pre-fight trash talk, I suspect he’d be willing to do the same if Daley looks to avoid engaging.
The issue Page might have here comes with Daley’s durability as a striker. This is a man who’s been fighting professionally since 2003 and has 58 MMA fights as well as 21 kickboxing bouts under his belt. The amount of times he’s lost by strikes? Just the once, to Nick Diaz in 2011. And of course, Diaz is one of the most durable fighters in MMA history.
Essentially, ‘Semtex’ destroys whatever he hits, and so if you enter into a striking match with the guy, you’re likely to come out on the wrong end of the deal. It’s not impossible to outstrike him, but again, the fighters who have done that always had the threat of their wrestling to fall back on, something ‘MVP’ simply doesn’t have in his arsenal at all, as far as we’re aware at least.
Therefore, even if Daley comes out to trade – essentially walking into Page’s gameplan – then he’s probably going to be confident that his chin can hold up to anything his opponent might land, while Page’s chin is completely untested – and even hard chins have been cracked by the Nottingham native before.
For me, Page’s only route to victory then would be to win a low-output striking match where he lands slightly more strikes than Daley. Assuming ‘Semtex’ isn’t willing to fight that fight, then I’m pretty confident that he’ll get through and land with something savage over the course of the fight – and that’ll be enough to send the ‘MVP’ hype train crashing off the tracks.
The Pick: Daley via second round KO