Two homegrown stars have risen to the top of Bellator’s welterweight division. Michael “Venom” Page and Logan Storley have each spent the majority of their careers in the promotion. Their commitment to the craft evokes an interim welterweight championship match at Bellator 281 in Page’s backyard in London, England.
A precise and dynamic knockout artist, “MVP” was criticized for fighting a relatively low level of competition. Page (20-1) has a number of experienced opponents and UFC veterans under his belt and, most recently, has found success against ranked Bellator opposition. Page, in his last fight, avenged his only career loss to former champion Douglas Lima, winning a split decision in London and a title shot against defending champion Yaroslav Amosov. Unfortunately, Amosov retired from combat as the Ukrainian fighter continues to serve his country in the war with Russia. The demotion from undisputed champion to interim champion had no effect on Page’s morale until Bellator 281.
“100% still full excitement. I’ve told people that, but I still consider myself the champ at the end,” Page told CBS Sports. “The only difference is that there is one person who when they arrive is first in line and can skip the queue to fight the champ. That’s it. Other than that, I like just competing. I love being on stage and being in front of a crowd. I enjoy the energy they give me. There’s so much I enjoy about it. There’s nothing that can remove this moment.”
Check out the full interview with Michael Page below.
Storley (13-1) is among the best pure wrestlers Bellator offers. A four-time NCAA Division I All-American, the only blemish — ignoring a messy split-decision win over Dante Schiro — on his professional record is a split-decision loss to Amosov. The Sanford MMA student earned his shot at Page with a decisive win over top 10 welterweight Neiman Gracie. While it’s true that Storley definitely won on the scorecards, both men showed heart and tenacity in one of the best fights Bellator has produced this year. Storley will have to be more mindful swinging for the fences against an electric page. He also needs to be aware of Page’s potential hometown advantage. In what should be a modern clash between wrestler and striker, Storley is well aware that a hostile crowd could sway the referee’s decision-making.
“He’s got a really good grip from the bottom and he’ll try to tie me down and get him back on his feet. Especially here in the UK I’m sure people will boo as soon as he hits the ground. We’re well prepared for this. It’s going to take 25 minutes of focus. That’s what this fight is going to come down to,” Storley told CBS Sports. “I know every referee can say anything, but we’ve seen it in the arenas. You walk into a booing crowd and this and that. I have to stay active and do some damage at the top. I passed last camp getting ready for Gracie. I spent last camp with Nate Marquardt this fight. He’s one of the best guys. He’s a legend in the sport. He’s got a lot of little tips and tricks for me. help. He was a huge help. I need to damage this guy and take him to deep water.”
Page isn’t the only star attacker on the map. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida returns to the middleweight division for a clash with Fabian Edwards. Machida, 43, and Edwards, 29, are trending lower. “The Dragon” has lost three straight fights to heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, light heavyweight champion Phil Davis and middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi. Edwards failed Austin Vanderford in a title eliminator and gave up a split decision to Costello van Steenis before that. Machida returns to middleweight with two things firmly in mind: he’s too small for light heavyweight and winning is no longer the primary motivator.
“When they offered me the Grand Prix, I first thought there was no way it was 185. It’s going to be 205 and that’s not my [weight] more class,” Machida told CBS Sports. “But I thought what ultimately matters is the experience you have in your life. I said, ‘No, man. If I have the opportunity and someone has offered it to me and I believe I can do it, why not? People are stuck in wins and losses all the time. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing bad. But I’m at a point in my career where I have to try different things. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Check out the full interview with Lyoto Machida below.
Here is the fight card for Bellator 281 with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Bellator 281 card, odds
|Logan Stoley-300||Michael Page +240||Interim Welterweight Championship|
|Fabien Edwards-160||Lyoto Machida +135||Average weight|
|Denise Kielholtz-240||Kana Watanabe +200||Women’s Flyweight|
|Paul Daley-300||Wendell Giacomo +240||Welterweight|
|Luke Trainer -300||Simon Biyong +240||Light heavyweight|
Bellator 281 viewing information
Date: May 13 | Start time: 4 p.m. ET
Location: SSE Arena — London
Flow: Show time
Michael Page vs. Logan Storeley: Frankly, this is a tough fight to predict. Page and Storley each have such vast advantages in their favorite arts that it may come down to who has the biggest gaps in their opponent’s area of expertise. MVP has a serious six-inch height and 8.5-inch reach advantage that greatly benefits his long-range striking game. Conversely, Storley’s lower center of gravity invites one-legged and two-legged takedowns if he can get inside. It’s been three years since Page was beaten by Paul Daley, so we’ll excuse that performance somewhat. The multiple takedowns Lima scored last year are more troubling. MVP would do well to steer clear of wild kicks that could throw him off balance or from an inappropriate angle. He has the head movement and distance management to stay with his hands down style and that will help him fish under the hooks and fend off a Storley that needs to close. Storley and Gracie lit up for 25 minutes. This is not a match that will prove fruitful against MVP. Storley needs to find a way to cram Page in immediately, either against the fence or with takedowns. Storley’s near miss against Schiro inspires some hesitation. It only takes one disassembly to completely change the scenery of a fight. Let’s side with Storley this time. To take: storley via UD