Bellator MMA makes its pay-per-view (PPV) debut this upcoming Saturday night (May 17, 2014) at Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, and despite a massive blow to its lightweight championship main event, the show must go on.
Undefeated welterweight Michael Page (5-0) is a flashy striker from England who has already gained a fan base because of his exciting fighting style in which he leaves his hands down and batters his foes when they least expect it. He will be facing one-time Bellator veteran and former Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) fighter Ricky Rainey (8-2) on the main card.
"Venom" hasn't faced too much trouble in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career thus far, finishing all five of his opponents in dynamic fashion. The 26-year-old combatant has already drawn comparisons to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in his native land, despite being unfamiliar to North American fans.
"The Sniper" fights out of North Carolina at Renegade Fighting Systems and he's made a name for himself based on his last performance, where he finished Andy Murad at Bellator 116 one month ago by drilling his opponent with a head kick and followed up with punches.
Rainey was 3-2 in XFC before joining the Bellator roster. He lost to highly touted prospect Dhiego Lima in his last fight for the promotion.
Let's break down both fighters below:
Big Wins: Ramdan Mohamed (SFL 15), Ryan Sanders (Bellator 93), Ben Dishman (UCMMA 26)
Crushing Losses: None
What He Needs To Do In Order To Win: "Venom" burst onto the scene with his destruction of Ben Dishman, where his Roy Jones Jr.-esque striking style saw him tornado kick his opponent into an oblivion after shuffling with his hands down.
Page is the quicker fighter and he will have the striking advantage in this fight. He's good on the mat, too, learning how to excel in the ground game after such a long time spent kickboxing. He doesn't need to rush forward and chances are his style will stay intact for this bout. He could pressure his opponent by pressing forward and find openings there, or he could stay calm and resort to one-shot blows if he likes. It would be interesting if Page takes the fight to the mat, too, since he could really surprise Rainey by doing that.
What He Needs To Avoid: He can't be too showy, since one good shot from Rainey can do serious damage. There's no doubt "Venom" will be feeling additional pressure on the main stage, so he can't take his opponent for granted. He's likely to be favored on the betting lines, so he'll have a lot more weight riding on his shoulders.
If he doesn't use his speed and fights Rainey's fight, it won't benefit him at all, either. He's good in the clinch, but he'll need to shoot down Rainey's attempts to lock him up early and scare him away.
Big Wins: Andy Murad (Bellator 116), Reggie Pena (XFC 24), Donald Wallace (XFC 21)
Crushing Losses: Dhiego Lima (XFC 25), Johnny Buck (XFC 19)
What He Needs To Do In Order To Win: It seems like Rainey could be plodding at times, but don't let his style fool you. He's very careful when picking his shots, even though he's not the most technical guy out there.
If you give him a chance to swarm you, not only will he pounce on you and bring forth the pressure, but chances are he's going to put you away. It's exactly what he did to Andy Murad in his last fight and three of his foes in XFC felt the same wrath.
He's powerful in the clinch and he's decent at avoiding takedowns; however, keep in mind his competition wasn't great on the regional scene. He does have a very good striking base, which is going to match up well against Page, since "The Sniper" is capable of hitting you with kicks from unorthodox angles in between his hooks and jabs.
He needs to get his hands dirty and confuse Page, which means he has to be first in the exchanges, shift levels with takedown attempts and trouble his adversary right from the get-go.
What He Needs To Avoid: In his loss against Johnny Buck, the Gastonia-based fighter was winning the bout handily, battering "Buck Nasty" for six minutes until he got a little too comfortable and let his hands down. Buck knocked his socks off and scored an impressive come-from-behind victory when he had no business winning the fight.
Therefore, Rainey can't afford to do any of that stuff against Page. Maybe it works for "Venom," yet "The Sniper" can't engage in that type of battle because it's simply not his bread and butter.
He also can't be too slow on the feet, either. He's the more patient striker, but if he freezes or overthinks, it's over for him.
Final Assessment: This battle is a decent one to open up the main card broadcast, even if you've got scrappers like Cheick Kongo and Shahbulat Shamhalaev on the "Prelims" portion. It doesn't seem like it's going to go the full three rounds, so you can bank on it ending in a knockout of some sorts.
I doubt the fight will go anywhere else than on the feet, although you never know. It really comes down to who will hurt their opponent first and we can only find out for sure on fight night.
By watching highlights of them both, it seems like Page should be able to continue his undefeated streak, but it's not going to be easy. Rainey is definitely going to show up and make it a difficult night for him.
You shouldn't be tuning in late for this clash. It's going to be a good one.