The fight that was billed as the biggest match in British MMA history turned out to be anything but. Fans and media were sure the Bellator 216 main event welterweight tournament quarterfinal between Michael Page and Paul Daley would be nothing but “fistic fireworks.” Instead, the fight turned out to be an absolute snoozer, and capped off what was an entirely forgettable weekend for Bellator’s Scott Coker and co.
As Page and Daley are both heavy-handed strikers, most assumed the fight would take place on the feet with each man trying to kill each other after all that was said in the back-and-forth leading up to the fight. Page is an undefeated knockout artist known for his unorthodox technique and Daley is a big power puncher known for his highlight-reel KOs, so it made sense that most figured this is a fight that would play out on the feet with each man looking to knock the other unconscious.
Instead, the fight turned out to be a grappling-heavy affair, and both fighters ended up seeing their stocks drop after it was over. Daley actually looked pretty good early on as he showed off a new wrinkle in his game with his takedowns, while Page’s poor takedown defense against a guy not known for his wrestling drew criticisms from fellow fighters and fans on social media. This is the guy Bellator has been plugging as their future welterweight star for a long time, and he couldn’t even stuff a takedown from a British striker in Daley. It was bad, and fighters like Ben Askren couldn’t help themselves from poking fun on social media.
Ultimately, Page did just enough to win the fight, as he showed off a bit of wrestling of his own in the fifth and final round, breaking a 2-2 deadlock and taking home a close unanimous decision. The 48-47 scorecards in Page’s favor were correct, but just because Page won the fight doesn’t make him a winner. It was easily the worst performance of his career to date, and one that will see his stock dropped considerably. Page will take on Douglas Lima in the next round in what is a very difficult style matchup for him. Page might be a slightly better striker than Lima, but Lima can hold his own on the feet, and his grappling is way better. Page has been the betting favorite for all of his Bellator fights so far, but he won’t be here.
As bad as Page looked against Daley, maybe we need to give him a bit of a mulligan as he admitted in his post-fight interview that the stress of his father’s passing was extremely difficult on him and his family. We don’t know what Page went through in his training camp leading up to the fight, but we can only imagine it was the toughest camp of his career. Maybe he wasn’t able to get in the training he needed, or maybe he took Daley lightly. Either way, it was not the performance we all wanted and expected from Page and Daley for that matter, too.
Page will move on in the tournament, and he still has a chance to win it if he can get by Lima in the next round. But even if he does, he’ll still have to get by the winner of the other side of the bracket between Neiman Gracie and the winner of Rory MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch. Basically, he has a tough road ahead of him. Page is still a good fighter but clearly he has a lot of holes in his game and he’ll need to shore them up if he wants to take home the tournament title. If not, he’ll just become another fighter that was overhyped. Let’s hope that’s not the case.