Not content with one fight at Bellator 179, Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley, still smarting from his defeat to Rory MacDonald, spotted Michael ‘Venom’ Page, his fellow Brit, and made an aggressive beeline for him at Wembley Arena on Friday (May 19).
It wasn’t clear why he’d become so enraged, nor obvious who initiated the subsequent altercation, but one thing was certain: Paul Daley’s intentions were clear. He wanted to get to Page, he wanted to make a point, and he wanted to land something – those punches he’d failed to detonate on MacDonald for a round-and-a-half – on a man who’d attended the show in casual street clothes.
That’s the surface level stuff, anyway. The real reason Paul Daley went after Michael Page following the main event of Bellator 179 probably has more to do with the fact Daley vs. Page – the regulated, approved, proper version – represents one of the best Bellator headliners in 2017 and, better yet, would go down a storm in England.
Here are seven reasons why it needs to happen next…
1. Daley wasn’t disgraced
‘Semtex’ is a controversial figure in MMA, someone who has paid for his inability to control his temper, but his defeat to MacDonald was about as smooth and straightforward as it gets. He was taken down and submitted. He wasn’t beaten up on his feet, he wasn’t necessarily hurt, and he certainly wasn’t knocked out. For a striker of Daley’s calibre, that’s all-important. It keeps his reputation alive. It halts his momentum but doesn’t quite stop it altogether. That’s key for Daley moving forward, especially if Page is next. MacDonald beat him, sure, but he did so the way many have done before. He refused to stand with Daley and took him south. “He did what he had to do to win,” said Daley afterwards. Defeated, not destroyed.
2. Page needs a meaningful fight
Thirty-year-old Page is undefeated in twelve pro MMA fights but has yet to really be tested. He has conquered men he was supposed to conquer and more often than not done so in eye-catching fashion. That said, Fernando Gonzalez, his last opponent, pushed him to a split-decision and wasn’t all that far away from bursting the MVP bubble. Therein lies the problem. Keep Page cruising, fail to stimulate him, and there’s every chance he comes unstuck before he even reaches the big league. Should that happen, you kiss goodbye to the unbeaten record and the mystique. What’s more, at thirty, he’s as close to his athletic peak as he’s going to get. Wait much longer to make the move and an explosive and dynamic athlete like Page might not be quite so explosive and dynamic.
3. England still needs its all-British main event
All-British fights have proved to be the cornerstone of UK boxing over the years, but have yet to materialise in MMA. Daley vs. Page, however, is as good as any out there right now. More than just a clash of countrymen, it carries the kind of needle that can elevate a fight beyond just a matter of intrigue for the sport’s hardcore and perhaps seep into the mainstream sports pages. Boxing has paved the way in that sense. It has told us the only thing better and more profitable than an all-British fight is one that contains locally-sourced beef. Daley and Page have that in abundance.
4. Striking heaven
The consensus opinion is that Paul Daley loses fights when he’s taken to the ground and that Michael Page will lose his unbeaten record when finally dragged to the ground. The great thing about a fight between the two, though, is that it’s highly likely both men will engage in their comfort zone – where their strengths lie – and trade punches, kicks, elbows and knees as if they are the only things permitted in the fight.
5. Highlight reel heroes
Preceding the main event on Friday night there was a rundown of the ten greatest knockouts in Bellator history on the big screen. Daley’s knockout of Brennan Ward placed high, while Page’s knockout of Evangelista Santos, much to the delight of his London fans, came in at number one. It was a reminder not only of how exciting the two can be when at their best, but also acted as the perfect tease ahead of an impending showdown between the pair. For never has a fight guaranteed a clinical, emphatic finish quite like Daley vs. Page.
6. The ultimate crossroads fight
Paul Daley has been there and done it; Michael Page has so far only enrolled. One is looking for a lifeline, the other authenticity, and they can obtain everything they’re without by fighting one another. That’s the great thing about the match-up. It features two fighters at different junctures in their respective careers, with both still young enough for the fight to constitute a meeting of two athletes at the peak of their powers. Leave it any longer and that might not be the case.
7. It promotes itself
Moments after losing to Rory MacDonald on Friday, Daley was switched on enough to start cutting the promo for his next fight. He called Page a “p*ssy” in his post-fight interview and then chased after him en route to the changing room. Rather than off-the-cuff, it was likely the prologue to a big London showdown in the late-summer or fall. It sets it all up. It puts down the groundwork. The next part is the easy part.