Michael “Venom” Page vs Paul “Semtex” Daley is a defining moment for British MMA.
In MMA it’s all about market share.
At first, the goal was to create a level of understanding for the sport and its culture worldwide. Once upon a time, there was the belief that the sport represented barbarism. The athletes were treated like rock stars but rather like sideshows.
However, that misnomer has dissipated and the world has fully embraced the sport. Now it’s about appealing to all audiences, from general to niche market, and that depends on compelling athletic talent.
Paul Daley is a fighter’s fighter.
Never ducking a challenge, the pride of Nottingham, England has fought a litany of MMA’s best. From Lorenz Larkin, Jorge Masvidal, Duane Ludwig, Martin Kampmann, and many more, Daley has some impressive wins.
He’s always been MMA’s equivalent to Mike Tyson or Gervonta Davis for his one-punch knockout power. The word “Semtex” is the British equivalent to C-4 and is a perfect comparisson to his explosive abilities.
After dominating the UK fight scene, Daley made his debut to a large U.S. audience at UFC 103 where he destroyed Martin Kampmann in the first round. He made little work of Dustin Hazelett in the same fashion at UFC 108 before running into Josh Koscheck at the fateful UFC 113 in Montreal.
Ultimate (Fail) Fighting Championships
Daley, a known striker who relished the trash talking between the wrestler-striker in Koscheck, wanted a slugfest. Koscheck knew better and employed a wrestling-heavy strategy that frustrated Daley through three rounds.
At the conclusion of the third, Daley hit Koscheck with a sucker punch after the bell. It was not sportsmanlike but the punishment seemed egregious as UFC President Dana White banned Daley from the UFC for life.
In light of the Khabib Nurmagomedov in arena fiasco and Conor McGregor backstage melee, this decision seems very unjust. Still, the UFC never changed their decision and Daley moved on to greener pastures.
Since his first Bellator fight at Bellator 72, where he knocked out Rudy Bears, Daley has gone 6-3 in the promotion with highlight reel knockouts over Brennan Ward and Lorenz Larkin to name a few. His losses come from high caliber current and former champions like Douglas Lima, John Fitch, and Rory MacDonald.
Yet despite finding a stable home in Bellator, there is only one challenge that matters. Sounding more like an unofficial title and recognition fight, Daley knows there can only be one “MVP”.
Most Venomous Player
You cannot play MMA.
However, for Michael “Venom” Page, fighting is so akin to playtime the lines seemed blurred when he is fighting. Reared in a large family of martial artists, Page grew up much like Andre Berto who was influenced by his father and siblings to pursue the martial arts.
Starting out as a kickboxer, the Londoner accumulated many national accolades in the martial arts before deciding to pursue the more popular MMA. The move was smart because from day one, Page was meant to be a mixed martial artist.
When UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones entered the scene, the world collectively gasped at the evolution of the sport. Here was a freakishly athletic young guy that could accomplish almost anything inside of a cage. Michael “Venom” Page expounds upon that athletic evolution.
In thirteen bouts, Page has won eight by knockout. Unlike Daley who is well known for his deficiencies on the ground, Page can also submit opponents with three that can testify to first-round stoppages. His arsenal is a diverse matchup of submission wins from a rear naked choke, armbar and an Achilles lock. In addition, his knockout power is a signature, his 10 second KO of Ryan Sanders and vicious elbows to Charlie Ontiveros, both in the first round, are testaments to this.
When his fights have gone to the second round, it led to the knockout retirement of David Rickels and his skull crushing flying knee to Evangelista Santos. His Pokemon tribute right after the devastating win stoked the ire of many while solidifying that Page is merely having fun.
But with his newest opponent, Paul Daley, it’s personal.
Bad British Blood
When Bellator announced its Welterweight Grand Prix the fight world salivated at the potential for an MVP vs. Daley matchup.
Unlike its competitors, Bellator has honed the art of the tournament and added the right elements to prove its viability to a global audience. The Bellator heavyweight tournament crowned Ryan Bader as arguably the best heavyweight not named Daniel Cormier.
The welterweight tournament aims to do the same thing and in the first round, the fans will get what they want, MVP vs. Daley.
This Saturday, the two finally meet in an unavoidable matchup that they created. Through the media and verbal tussles cage side, the two have let it be known there is no love. In the Koscheck fight, Daley didn’t have an opponent that was willing to stand and bang with him. In the words of Doc Holliday, MVP is your “huckleberry”.
Douglas Lima has already advanced to the quarterfinals awaiting the winner of Page vs. Daley. Although Daley already has a decision loss to Lima, either opponent would give the former two-time Bellator welterweight champion problems.
Doing It For The Culture
The real fight though is MVP vs. Daley, as it spells the battle for British bragging rights. It also marks a shift in MMA main event culture. Recently, the influx of brandable athletes like Rampage Jackson, King Mo, Jon Jones, and Daniel Cormier has shifted the MMA marketing landscape. Once a taboo subject to have a plethora of main events featuring fighters of color, MMA is finding its melanin sweet spot.
Hip hop’s number one instigator, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson joined the Bellator bandwagon. Utilizing his catchy “Get The Strap” moniker, the world’s biggest troll is furthering awareness for athletes often overlooked by boxing traditionalists.
Bellator has never shied away from the matchups, especially under Scott Coker’s tenure and the feared lack of interest by the general market is dissipating. Guaranteed barnburner matchups like this are what fuel the fight business and Bellator is wasting no time with the provision.
At the Mohegan Sun, Michael “Venom” Page and Paul “Semtex” Daley will answer the question of who the best welterweight in the UK is. They will also continue the awakening of a fast-rising audience of viewers that look like them and are looking for a scrap.