Michael Page def. Paul Daley (Unanimous Decision)
It wasn’t what everybody wanted but it was what it was. MVP and Paul Daley have been trading verbal barbs for what feels like decades (slight exaggeration), but when it came to the actual fight, they seemed more willing to trade takedowns than punches and kicks. Part of this was due to the way that Paul Daley chose to engage, but Page was exposed in some ways. His striking game was rendered essentially ineffective by Daley’s own lack of output. Page looks for counters, and if you aren’t throwing punches, you can’t be countered.
Of course, you can’t beat MVP by not throwing punches, but you can beat him by grappling and that seems obvious after he was nearly out grappled by a man who has seemingly been allergic to wrestling up to this point in his career. Now my job is already done with booking MVP’s next fight, because as most of you likely know this was the first round of a tournament that will eventually culminate with the winner being crowned Welterweight champion. MVP will advance to the second round where he will face former division champion and in my opinion top 10 welterweight, Douglas Lima.
Lima is skilled on the feet, as well as on the ground, and he will without a doubt be the toughest test of MVP’s career. It is crazy to think that Page is technically just one fight away from a title shot, but if he can get past Lima he will be fighting for the title in the finals.
Fight to make next: Michael Page vs. Douglas Lima (Round 2 of Welterweight Grand Prix)
Paul Daley seemed a bit rattled in the lead up to the fight, and he was criticized for his performance against MVP, preferring to try wrestling rather than striking with a man that he has consistently claimed he would knock out. But really can you blame him? Daley likely thought he could win the fight grappling, so he tried it, and it was a decent effort considering his usual aversion to the grappling arts. Despite this loss, Daley will remain one of the top welterweights in Bellator as well as the most exciting. As mentioned above, MVP will be advancing to face Douglas Lima in the second round of the tournament. For Lima to get there he had to first defeat Andrey Koreshkov in his first-round bout.
You might know where I am going with this. The winners are advancing to face each other so I like the idea of matching up the losers. Paul Daley vs. Andrey Koreshkov is a very relevant fight for the division, and it should make for an exciting matchup as well.
Fight to make next: Paul Daley vs. Andrey Koreshkov
Mirko CroCop def. Roy Nelson (Unanimous Decision)
Mirko CroCop is the ageless wonder… while it’s been a running joke that he has great “doctors”, the truth is that despite any of this it is still quite remarkable to see CroCop still winning fights in 2019. But at 44 its always hard to say when he will call it quits. He looked pretty good against Roy Nelson, but Nelson hasn’t looked good in quite some time. Regardless, CroCop has now won ten straight fights, which is the longest streak of his career, and you have to go back to 2013 to find his last loss. If he was 34, I would say he deserves a shot at the heavyweight title, but at 44 it’s not something we are likely to see. An interesting statistic about CroCop is that he is 7-0 in rematches.
It just so happens that a rematch would make sense for his next bout just as it did for his last. When Mirko CroCop and Fedor Emelianenko first crossed paths it was 2005 and the Pride Heavyweight Championship was on the line. Emelianenko won, forcing CroCop backward towards a unanimous decision loss that ended a seven-fight win streak, a streak which saw him earn six stoppages. It’s a rematch that has often been talked about, but usually out of the realm of possibility. But in 2019 you have both guys under a Bellator contract, and it would be a great final fight for two of the absolute greatest heavyweights in MMA history.
Fight to make next: Mirko CroCop vs. Fedor Emelianenko
Roy Nelson has not had a pleasant few years. He is 4-10 since a three-fight win streak ended with a decision loss to Stipe Miocic (A fight I was convinced he would win….) He is 1-3 in Bellator, and at 42 with three straight losses, you have to wonder what’s next for Big Country. Justin Wren’s status isn’t exactly clear. He hasn’t fought since early 2017 and it is possible he will have a prolonged absence from the cage again as he attempts to supply wells in the Congo, but if he is still focused on fighting it’s about time, he gets a step up in competition. Nelson will serve as a solid test for Wren because at this point, he isn’t likely to contend for a title and his best days are very far behind him.
Fight to make next: Roy Nelson vs. Justin Wren
Cheick Kongo def. Vitaly Minakov (Majority Decision)
Cheick Kongo is perhaps the most underappreciated heavyweight in MMA history. He was a successful member of the UFC roster for years, picking up 11 wins in 18 fights, and defeating several notable opponents along the way, but was let go following a loss to Roy Nelson in 2013. Usually, that spells the end for a fighter’s career, but Kongo was just getting started. Since signing with Bellator following his UFC release, he has won 12 of 14 fights, including eight in a row. Despite having earned 23 wins in 32 fights over his Bellator and UFC career, Kongo has never earned a World title shot… that is until now.
As mentioned, Kongo has won eight straight fights in the Bellator cage, and he is without a doubt the best option to face Ryan Bader next. The two have already begun trash talking on social media, and in this day and age that’s usually enough to get a fight signed. Who would have ever thought that Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo would be a logical choice for a Bellator heavyweight title fight? Oh, how the times can change…
Fights to make next: Cheick Kongo vs. Ryan Bader for UFC Heavyweight Championship
Vitaly Minakov was undefeated coming into this fight with Cheick Kongo. He already held a win over Kongo, and as a former champion, many thought that Minakov was going to come in and quickly establish himself as a top challenger for Ryan Bader. While that may still happen, he will first have to deal with the first setback of his pro career. Minakov appeared to tire, and one has to wonder if it had anything to do with his lengthy layoff, or what had to have been an extremely long flight from Russia. Whatever the case, hopefully, he makes adjustments and chooses to continue fighting for Bellator. If he can get back on track, then he might make for a good challenger for Bader after all.
For now, though a fight with Tim Johnson makes sense. Johnson is a big wrestler, with UFC and Bellator experience, so things won’t get any easier for Minakov, but it will give us a chance to see if his poor performance was a fluke or something more.
Fight to make next: Vitaly Minakov vs. Tim Johnson
Yaroslav Amasov def. Erick Silva (Unanimous Decision)
Yaroslav Amasov improved to 21-0 with his victory over Erick Silva and in the process further proved that he is one of the more interesting prospects on the Bellator roster. He has won two straight fights against former UFC fighters and didn’t show much weakness in either fight. Bellator thought enough of Ed Ruth to include him in the still ongoing Welterweight Grand Prix, but a fourth-round submission loss to Neiman Gracie in his last fight saw him eliminated in round one. Both are highly touted prospects, but this fight will give Amasov the opportunity to show that he deserved Ruth’s spot.
Fight to make next: Yaroslav Amasov vs. Ed Ruth
Erick Silva was at one time one of the hottest prospects in all of MMA. Silva appeared to be developing into a real force when he came into UFC. Silva never quite reached his potential. Something derailed him along the way. This was his first fight in Bellator since signing with the company, and things obviously didn’t go according to plan. Going forward, Silva will likely often find himself in fights against younger prospects, and he is unlikely to ever reach title contention. So, for that reason, I am going to match him up with Andre Fialho.
Fight to make next: Erick Silva vs. Andre Fialho
Valerie Loureda def. Colby Fletcher (TKO/Punches)
Valerie Loureda looked good in her debut. Colby Fletcher seemed way overmatched and it’s difficult to say what we should expect going forward. We know that she has a background in Tae Kwon Do, and he appears to have good punching power judging from her one pro fight, but that’s about it. Her next opponent is likely someone that will be local to the city that she is fighting in, so for that reason, I am not going to choose anybody specifically. But she is without a doubt a fighter to watch going forward. As for her opponent, her performance was not good, and we are unlikely to see her invited back to the Bellator cage.