Here at Mantality, we never pass up the opportunity to experience special events and Bellator MMA’s first ever show in the UK was not something we planned on missing out on. There is never anything quite like ‘being there’ and we were lucky enough to be in attendance for Bellator 158. The thrills and the unpredictability of sports, just like life itself, never ceases to surprise us and being there to experience it first hand, in the moment – we can’t think of many better things. Join us as we relive the moments of Bellator 158.
Pokemon Go and knees to the head aren’t usually mentioned in the same sentence, but British welterweight star Michael ‘Venom’ Page (MVP) changed all that. Going into his fight against Brazilian MMA veteran Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos, all eyes were on Page as he made his return to competition in the UK after over four years of fighting on foreign soil. When fight night arrived, I was hopeful that we would see Page make use of his vast array of techniques but I could not have hoped for such a breath-taking culmination of training and dedication. The first round saw Page’s ‘hands down’ style disrupted by the wily Santos, who despite eating a few shots from Page, took him down with relative ease. ‘Venom’ remained calm though and he never looked like he was in much trouble. The second round began and Page, perhaps a tad nervous to begin with in front of his home crowd, started landing his shots with ease. The strikes continued as his patented movement saw him create angles for strikes that ‘Cyborg’ found too much to handle. Santos continued to move forward though, which played into Page’s hands. With his accuracy improving with every strike, Page landed a stern body kick which looked to have Cyborg in trouble. The Brazilian tried to fight through the effects of the kick but as he stepped forward, his skull was met with a devastating knee from Page. ‘Venom’ timed his jumping knee to perfection and the crisp strike seemed almost destined to land. It was genuinely like something out of a Bruce Lee movie. There was a split second between the sound of bone crashing into bone and the crowd revelling in what they had just seen. Those are the moments that stay with you. The victorious Michael Page celebrated his success with his Pokemon gear whilst the chants of ‘MVP’ from the crowd rang out inside the arena; not a bad homecoming. Thoughts are with Santos too, whose loss was compounded by a horrific injury as a result of Page’s knee and we wish him the best for his recovery.
The co-main event was a battle of heavyweight UFC veterans as Oli Thompson (formerly Britain’s strongest man) took on ex-NFL player Matt Mitrione. On paper, this was the definition of a fun fight and it certainly lived up to expectations. Both fighters were eager to engage and exchanged strikes early, with a smiling Mitrione obviously enjoying the occasion. As the heavyweights traded blows, the crowd showed their appreciation with each flurry of heavy shots. Thompson looked to be losing the exchanges, but he seemed much more relaxed as the first round came to a close. The exchanges of thunderous blows continued throughout the second, but Mitrione’s footwork and agility seemed to give him the advantage as he began to out-strike his British opponent. The former footballer’s movement and straight punches began to triumph over the wild hooks of Thompson. As the second round drew to a close, the disparity in strikes bore fruit for Mitrione. After Thompson backed up against the fence, he was sent to the canvas after being overwhelmed by Mitrione’s barrage of shots following some very intelligent clinch work. Heavyweight fights tend to go one of two ways; they end with an ovation from the crowd or with people heading to the bar. There was nobody heading for a beverage. The fighters hugged it out after Thompson regained his composure and it was a fitting finale for such an entertaining bout.
British welterweight standout Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley collided with Brazilian contender Douglas ‘The Phenom’ Lima in the main event of the evening. Despite the crowd willing him on, Daley was knocked down in the early stages of the first round. Lima couldn’t get the finish however as his durable opponent got back to his feet looking for worse for wear. ‘Semtex’ struggled to get back into the round as his rival comfortably neutralised him with his movement and counter-striking. The second round was almost as disappointing for Daley as the first; his attempts to turn up the heat on ‘The Phenom’ were to no avail. As Daley looked to be having a small amount of success on the feet, Lima responded with a takedown and undid his hard work. The crowd was still behind the home fighter, who knew he needed a finish to avoid defeat via the judges’ score cards. Lima however used his opponent’s desperation against him, to great effect. Daley could do nothing to prevent the relentless takedowns and top game of Lima in the final frame. ‘The Phenom’ knew he was on his way to a decision win and didn’t give Daley an inch. The judges confirmed what the crowd and the fighters already knew to be a forgone conclusion; a unanimous decision win for Lima. There was no questioning Daley’s heart as he battled uphill for all three rounds. Lima was the better man on the night, but both men left with the O2’s respect and admiration for their efforts.
Elsewhere on the fight card, there were some spectacular finishes. The first fireworks of the night came from flyweight, Pietro Menga, who turned out Spencer Hewitt’s lights with a scintillating one-punch knockout. The action continued with Jason Radcliffe making quick work of Jack Mason with a vicious knee to the head in response to a takedown attempt. It was a great night for UFC veteran Danny Mitchell too. ‘The Cheesecake Assassin’ tapped out C.J. Meeks with the second twister of his MMA career and the first one I had ever seen in person. I feel very lucky to have witnessed such flawless technique! There was also a notable performance from another UFC veteran. Francis Carmont waltzed through Lukasz Klinger on his way to a submission finish, slipping in a D’arce choke with ease after seamlessly taking his opponent to the ground.
All in all, Bellator’s first event in the UK delivered on the entertaining fights they are known to put together and I am sure those in attendance would echo my thoughts. Some big names in MMA, mixed with hometown favourites never seemed like a combination that couldn’t go too far wrong and I hope to see Bellator back in the UK sooner rather than later. However, there was an inescapable feeling that something was missing. Amongst the sounds of the crowd and the bright lights of the O2, one couldn’t help but feel that Kevin ‘Kimbo Slice’ Ferguson should have been there too.
Bellator 158 Results:
Douglas Lima def. Paul Daley via unanimous decision (30-27,30-27,30-27)
Matt Mitrione def. Oli Thompson via TKO (Punches) Round 2
Francis Carmont def. Lukasz Klinger via submission (D’Arce choke) Round 1
Michael Page def. Cyborg Santos via KO (Flying knee) Round 2
James Gallagher def. Mike Cutting via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Manuel Garcia def. Alex Reid via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
James Mulheron def. Neil Grove via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26)
Danny Mitchell def. CJ Meeks via submission (Twister) Round 1
Nathaniel Wood def. Case Morton via submission (Rear-naked choke) Round 3
Jason Radcliffe def. Jack Mason via KO (Knee) Round 1
Dean Garnett and Luiz Tosta majority draw (27-29, 28-28, 28-28)
Pietro Menga def. Spencer Hewitt via KO (Punch) Round 1
Michael Shipman def. Dom Clark via submission (Anaconda choke) Round 1