Bellator 216: Paul Daley and Michael Page Finally Collide

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Michael Page and Paul Daley ahead of Bellator 216
Michael Page vs. Paul Daley Credit: Bellator MMA

After several years of back-and-forth in interviews, English rivals Paul Daley and Michael Page will finally square off with each other in the Welterweight Grand Prix at Bellator 216.

In 2018, it appeared as if the grudge match was destined not to happen.  As the undefeated Michael Page was an injection of fresh blood into Bellator’s welterweight division, Paul “Semtex” Daley was relegated to the background.  Upon hearing the plan for his rival, he went public to say that he was looking to finish his contract and subsequently leave the promotion.  Furthermore, he was then matched up with Jon Fitch which many read as a punishment for his comments as Fitch was considered the worst possible match-up stylistically for Daley.  Following the loss in May and his subsequent free-agency, there was a question as to whether Daley would even stay with the promotion. In the end, he did.

While “Semtex” has alternated wins and losses over the last several years, one thing he has never done is shy away from a firefight.  It is a strategy that has produced incredible finishes such as those over Lorenz Larkin and Brennan Ward.  Even in losses against the likes of Rory MacDonald and Fitch, the ever present threat of Daley’s power added a level of intrigue.  This makes Saturday’s fight a huge opportunity for Daley as Page is expected to keep the fight standing with him.  If he wins, he also has a rematch with another striker in Douglas Lima.  Stylistically, he may never get a better chance to reach the finals and get the title shot that has eluded him so far in Bellator.

Opposing him will be the dynamic Michael “Venom” Page whose brilliant displays of striking have captivated the Bellator audience.  The undefeated Englishman has finished twelve of his thirteen opponents, including several by submission.  Furthermore, he even ventured into professional boxing and scored a pair of victories in 2017.  Each performance has raised his stock as his style has drawn comparisons to the likes of Israel Adesanya and he is considered one of the best contemporary strikers in MMA today.

Page and Daley have gone back-and-forth for years, both of them publicly disparaging the other but a match-up never materializing.  The two haven’t shied away from more public barbs in the build-up, but the recent death of Page’s father is also now weighing on the man dubbed “MVP.”  In an interview with MMAJunkie, Page said “It’s horrible. I’ve never been put in this situation before.  I actually don’t know if taking the fight is even the right decision or the wrong decision.  I just feel like I need to have this fight.  I feel like he would want me to have this fight. He was equally excited about seeing the fight.  It’s hard to know whether I’m doing the right thing or the wrong thing.”

Fans are right to expect an epic finish to the fight as the two are known for their destructive capabilities.  However, they are two distinctly different types of strikers: Daley fights using a more traditional style while Page uses a more unorthodox attack.

Daley should look to make the fight more of a brawl in the middle of the cage.  Page is known for keeping his hands low and inviting opponents to engage so he can counter-attack.  Daley should enter behind a jab and then load up on power punches or chopping leg-kicks to deliver the most damage.  Kicks in particular will be crucial in slowing down Page should he be unable to catch him clean with blows to the head.  Of the two, Daley is the more physical fighter and his best route to a highlight reel finish is cutting off the cage and unloading on Page when he is corralled in front of him.

By comparison, Page will want to keep the fight at long-range where he can frustrate Daley and pick him apart on the outside.  Page will ideally be looking to make Daley hesitant to come forward and use his long frame to tag him from a distance.  The key to his strategy will be footwork and accuracy; he will take the decision if he can evade Daley’s charges forward and connect on his counters. The more effective he is, the more likely Daley is to get reckless and leave openings for Page to capitalize on.

If the star power is on the other side with current champion Rory MacDonald, then the fireworks are going to be on the side of Daley and Page.  Not only is the fight the most exciting one on paper, but a pending semifinal with Douglas Lima for the winner is another contest expected to deliver action.  MVP vs. Daley has been called the biggest MMA fight in the history of the UK, and it is hard to imagine a scenario where it doesn’t live up to the hype.

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