They say styles make fights, and England’s Michael “Venom” Page faces a real clash of fighting philosophies when he looks to bounce back into the win column against Brazilian contender Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 292.
Page came agonizingly close to winning championship gold at Bellator 281 in May 2022, but his split-decision loss to Logan Storley in their interim title bout deprived him of a magic moment in front of his home fans at Wembley Arena in London.
After coming so close, you’d expect Page to be chomping at the bit to get straight back in there and challenge for the title again, but the Londoner was in calm and contemplative mood when he chatted about his situation at Bellator 291 in Dublin.
Speaking backstage at the 3Arena after a stint in the commentary box, then as a cornerman for London Shootfighters teammate Norbert Novenyi Jr., Page said he accepts his current situation in Bellator’s 170-pound division, and knows he’ll have to bide his time, and win at least one more fight, before he can challenge for a title again.
Page will take on Brazilian grappling ace Yamauchi at Bellator 292 on March 10 as part of a stacked main card lineup in San Jose, California. The matchup came as a surprise to some, who thought the Briton would demand an immediate title shot, given the fact that even Bellator president Scott Coker admitted he thought Page had won last time out.
“We were gonna go with Jason Jackson, I believe he’s next in line for the title,” Page explained.
“But he was, ‘I’d prefer to wait for this (title) fight.’ Completely makes sense. And I know he’s not scared of anybody.
“It makes more sense to me because, instead of having another fight that could potentially knock me back, I’m already in line for the title. I can sit back, wait for these two to finish, and then take the winner of the fight. So it was supposed to be that and then the next person down (the list) was gonna be Yamauchi.”
With Jackson sitting tight to potentially face welterweight king Yaroslav Amosov, the task for Page is clear – defeat another contender impressively and make an undeniable case to be the next man in line after Jackson.
That test comes in the form of Yamauchi, a 20-2 contender whose resume doesn’t get the shine it deserves. The 30-year-old Brazilian was a dangerous contender at lightweight, but moved up to welterweight in 2022 and picked up back-to-back finishes over Levan Chokheli (first-round armbar) and Neiman Gracie (second-round knockout).
The finish of Gracie, a fighter who had been groomed for greatness by Bellator ever since his arrival in the promotion in 2015, was a huge statement. Prior to that fight, the Brazilian’s only defeats came on the scorecards against elite-level opposition. But Yamauchi showed his all-round skillset by shutting down Gracie’s much-vaunted mat skills, before knocking him out on the feet for a huge win.
Despite that KO, Yamauchi’s biggest threat comes on the mat, and Page said he’s looking forward to pitting his striking skills against the Brazilian’s grappling arsenal.
“It excites me because he’s a specialist,” he said.
“He’s exceptional in a specific area, and I’m exceptional in a completely different area. And this is what MMA is about. It’s about those two styles crossing, which one is going to be the most effective on the day. So it’s just a great fight.
“And, you know, he came up with a spectacular win against Gracie and showcased his boxing style as well. So yeah, he’s an amazing athlete.”
The fight will see Page competing further down the card than he’s used to, with the fight set to form the opening bout of the main card in San Jose. That fact doesn’t bother “MVP,” though, with the always-entertaining Englishman ready to steal the show, regardless of his card placement.
“I don’t care too much about stuff. I’ve never cared about stuff like that,” he said.
“Because I always say, if I’m on the card, then I’m the main event. If I’m on the card, you’re remembering what I’m doing. I don’t care where I am on the bill, I’m the main event.”