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
#2. Cheick Kongo vs. Vitaly Minakov
The former Bellator Heavyweight champion, most fans were hoping the unbeaten Minakov would find his way to the UFC in 2018 as a contract impasse seemed to make a possible return to Bellator impossible. But evidently Scott Coker is a solid negotiator, as the Russian is now firmly back in the fold after 7 fights – and 7 wins – under the Fight Nights Global banner since 2015.
Minakov has a record of 21-0 – highly impressive given he’s not been fighting scrubs – and at age 34, he’s probably right in his prime now. I’m actually surprised Bellator didn’t just hold off to match him with the winner of their Grand Prix – the man who now holds Minakov’s Heavyweight title, Ryan Bader – but perhaps it makes more sense to reintroduce him to the Bellator fans this way given he hasn’t fought there since 2014.
His last fight under the Bellator banner? Interestingly, it came against his opponent on Saturday, former UFC contender Cheick Kongo. Strangely enough, the Frenchman has now spent almost as much time in Bellator as he did in the UFC – and he’s actually been more successful there, winning 13 of his 15 fights, with his only losses coming to Minakov and to Muhammad Lawal, who simply outwrestled him to a decision.
Kongo is somewhat of a strange fighter in that he’s always been sold as a knockout striker, and while he does have some excellent KO’s on his record – including a recent stoppage of Timothy Johnson – he’s really not a striker per se at all. Instead, he’s a bruiser inside the clinch, where he loves to punish his opponents with knees, and if he can get them to the ground, then he has some nasty strikes from top position as well.
The issue Kongo has always had is that he’s simply not a hugely durable fighter for a Heavyweight; he’s only been knocked out on 3 occasions, but that doesn’t tell the whole story – he’s been hurt and dropped countless times throughout his career, and at age 43, that’s a worrying pattern. And while he’s excellent from top position he can definitely be outwrestled and beaten up on the ground and essentially, those two problems sum up all of his career losses.
Minakov isn’t a perfect fighter by any means – he’s somewhat hittable due to the fact that he’s not the fastest athlete, and at times he comes off as a bit plodding in his movements. He’s also become tired on occasions too, although he’s always overcome this. But despite those issues – issues that would probably stop him from winning the UFC’s Heavyweight title – I still believe he’s the best big man outside of the world’s top promotion, and the best in Bellator.
That means he should beat Kongo with little difficulty here. The last time they fought, Kongo landed the odd big strike and got off a couple of takedowns, but for the most part, he was outstruck on the feet and got beaten up on the ground – and I see no reason why Minakov can’t just recreate the same fight again to take a comfortable win.
The Pick: Minakov via unanimous decision
#3. Mirko Cro Cop vs. Roy Nelson
I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of Bellator’s senior citizen circuit; I just don’t see the point in older, beaten up fighters taking any more punishment than they already have. Realistically, both Roy Nelson and Mirko Cro Cop should probably be retired right now – Cro Cop in particular – but here they are on a Bellator main card in 2019.
Bizarrely, Cro Cop has actually been more successful recently, as he’s on a 9-fight winning streak and has won 10 of 11 fights since first losing to Nelson back in October 2011. Of course, it’s notable that the PRIDE legend left the UFC in 2015 after admitting to using the banned substance HGH – a substance known to essentially rejuvenate people. So perhaps his winning streak isn’t as big a shock as it should be.
Nelson meanwhile joined Bellator’s ranks in 2017 but hasn’t had the best time – a win over Javy Ayala was followed with losses to Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov, and essentially, he’s been degenerating as a fighter for years; his once well-rounded game seems now reduced to winging a power right hand, and his legendary durability is definitely on the wane too, as evidenced by that loss to Kharitonov.
Cro Cop has never been the most durable fighter, particularly at Heavyweight, and as he’s slightly slower than he once was in his prime then it’s possible that ‘Big Country’ could catch him with a bomb and knock him out. But then Nelson is much slower than he was in his prime too. And in terms of the strikes that both men throw, Cro Cop is still far more varied and arguably more dangerous, as he’s liable to throw low kicks and a crushing left hand, as well as that infamous left kick to the head or body.
Add in the fact that Mirko now looks physically bigger and stronger than he did even in his prime – how he manages that is obviously anyone’s guess – and always had solid takedown defence, I’m not sure that Nelson is even capable of muscling him to the ground any more.
Therefore I expect this to be a striking match and given the likes of Matt Mitrione, Kharitonov and Alistair Overeem all pieced ‘Big Country’ upstanding, I see no reason why Cro Cop can’t do the same, assuming he’s careful. Will he get the finish? Nelson’s chin now looks cracked, so I don’t see why not.
The Pick: Cro Cop via second round KO
#4. Erick Silva vs. Yaroslav Amosov
Ask a lot of UFC fans, and they’d tell you that Erick Silva is up there with the very biggest busts in UFC history, but realistically, that isn’t quite right. Essentially, Silva was never really as great a prospect as some made him out to be – myself included – due to his defensive struggles.
By the point he was released from the UFC in 2017, he’d been firmly established as a top-level glass cannon – dangerous in all areas, but simply not durable enough to be a title challenger.
Silva picked up a lone win on the smaller circuit in 2018 before being signed by Bellator, and he’s been handed a horrendous-sounding debut fight here against Yaroslav ‘Dynamo’ Amosov. The Ukrainian is 20-0 in MMA and comes after his opponents with an array of savage strikes and dangerous submissions.
Sure, he’s never been tested by an opponent as good as Silva before, but he had no issues with tough veteran Gerald Harris in his Bellator debut and even outwrestled him. That doesn’t bode well for Silva, who is now 34 and has suffered some truly brutal knockouts in his time – including nasty ones at the hands of Matt Brown, Dong Hyun Kim and Nordine Taleb.
Silva probably has the offensive talents to beat anyone in the division but he seems to have lost a lot of the explosive energy that made him so dangerous in his early UFC days, and that means he has to hold back for fear of gassing out at this point.
Could he land a counter on such an offensively-minded opponent as Amosov? Possibly, but I’m not willing to bet on it, particularly as he’s now quite old for the division at 34.
The Pick: Amosov by second round TKO
#5. Valerie Loureda vs. Colby Fletcher
There’s not a lot to preview in this fight, purely because Loureda is making her professional MMA debut while Fletcher is 1-2 in MMA and footage on her is sparse. Essentially, there’s not a lot you can gather from poorly-filmed video of two losses.
The fight is on the main card though because Loureda is a former US Olympian and a 4th-degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, and she’s also a model with 36.8k Instagram followers at the time of writing. All of this at the age of just 20, too! Essentially, she’s a promoter’s dream and Scott Coker clearly recognises this, hence the match with such an inexperienced opponent.
Reports actually suggested Bellator was looking to match Loureda even lower on the totem pole – initial opponent Anastasia Bruce was rejected by the Connecticut Athletic Commission as she had an amateur record of 0-12 and no professional bouts, meaning it didn’t sound like a fair fight.
Tae-Kwon-Do hasn’t traditionally been the best base for budding MMA fighters, but Loureda is clearly a hugely gifted athlete, and what’s more, she already has 3 amateur wins and is training with American Top Team. Footage on her shows a pretty sharp striker, as you’d imagine – and so I don’t see her having any issues on Saturday.
The Pick: Loureda via unanimous decision