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Bellator 216 predictions

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Michael “Venom” Page faces off with Paul Daley ahead of their Welterweight World Grand Prix main event bout on Saturday at Bellator 216 in Uncasville, Conn.
Bellator MMA

After countless stops and starts, one of Bellator’s biggest grudges is going to be settled.

The long-awaited showdown between U.K. striking stars Michael Page and Paul Daley might seem out of place in Uncasville, Conn., but once these two step into the cage it won’t matter where the matchup is taking place, only that they’re finally face-to-face and ready to go. Anything less than a highlight-reel knockout or a five-round war could be disappointing and however it ends, you get the feeling the bad blood won’t be forgotten so easily.

In the co-main event, Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov collide in a battle that could decide the No. 1 contender for the Bellator heavyweight title. Nothing is guaranteed, but an emphatic finish will make a strong case for either man to get the first shot at champion Ryan Bader.

Also on the main card, a rematch between heavyweight veterans Mirko Cro Cop and Roy Nelson, former UFC welterweight Erick Silva makes his Bellator debut against the unbeaten Yaroslav Amosov, and 20-year-old Valerie Loureda looks to make a splash against Colby Fletcher in a flyweight bout.

What: Bellator 216

Where: Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.

When: Saturday, Feb. 16. The preliminary card begins at 7:30 p.m. ET and will stream live on MMA Fighting, and the five-fight main card will stream exclusively on DAZN starting at 10 p.m. ET.

Michael Page vs. Paul Daley

With respect to Michael Page’s superb highlight reel, Paul Daley is an enormous step-up from his previous adversaries. That doesn’t mean Page can’t win, of course. It’s entirely possible that he’s always been far superior to the fighters he’s been matched up with and the level he’s at already is enough to get past Daley.

That has to be what the oddsmakers are thinking here as “MVP” is a 2-to-1 favorite on most betting sites. It’s hard to argue with that approach given that Page has typically demolished his opponents in the standup (Fernando Gonzalez excluded). He also has a slick leglock on his resume that’s worth mentioning, though it would be shocking to see this fight spend any time on the mat.

Daley has two of the most power-packed fists in welterweight history and he’s going to have to be patient otherwise he’ll get caught with a sniper-shot counter from Page. At times, this will resemble a striking chess match not unlike the recent Israel Adesanya-Anderson Silva encounter.

The difference is that one of these fighters is not making it to the final bell. This bout really is a toss-up, which is why it has been so highly anticipated; for myself, I can’t look past the big fight experience that Daley has.

Daley via second-round knockout.

Pick: Daley

Cheick Kongo vs. Vitaly Minakov

It’s not exactly going out on a limb to predict that a Cheick Kongo fight could get ugly, but that’s very much in play here. Vitaly Minakov is a brilliant grappler and it’s logical that he would attempt to tie up Kongo and take this one down to the mat. His ground and pound is absolutely deadly and if he gets Kongo on his back, it will be a long day for the veteran Frenchman.

Kongo has always had decent takedown defense though and he’s made a career of punishing opponents in the clinch with knees and short punches. He’s going to make Minakov work to land one of his game-changing trips or throws.

The other problem for Minakov is that Kongo is more physically gifted than some of the opponents he’s faced recently, as far as height and reach are concerned. Kongo is more than capable of hurting Minakov and taking away his 0 with a knockout blow.

Still, I see Minakov winning the majority of the grappling exchanges here and even if he isn’t able to dominate from top position, he’ll control enough of the fight to win a decision.

Pick: Minakov

Mirko Cro Cop vs. Roy Nelson

Here’s another fact that will blow your mind: Not only has Mirko Cro Cop won nine straight fights, he’s won them all by knockout or submission. It doesn’t matter who he’s fought, when you consider that this has all happened in his 40s, it’s undeniably impressive.

So do we think Cro Cop can knock Roy Nelson out?

Disregarding his last outing against Sergei Kharitonov, Nelson still has one of the best chins in the business and even against a revitalized Cro Cop, he should be able to avoid an early blitz and get this fight out of round one. If anything, it’s Cro Cop’s chin that hasn’t been tested in years. His last few matchups have been favorable ones, to say the least.

In their first fight, Nelson won by third-round TKO and there’s actually a good chance that he gets it done earlier this time around. I like Nelson to crown Cro Cop with a hammer right hand and finish in round two.

Pick: Nelson

Erick Silva vs. Yaroslav Amosov

You’d be hard-pressed to find a worse matchup for Erick Silva’s Bellator debut.

Yaroslav Amosov is an athletic, technical striker who isn’t going to give Silva a chance to get a bead on him. Athleticism has always been a plus-trait for Silva and everyone knows how dangerous he can be if he can score a takedown or show off his standup power, it’s just that he usually doesn’t fare well against opponents with the intelligence and defense of Amosov.

Silva has not won a decision in nine years and while that’s great for the excitement factor, it doesn’t bode well for him in this scenario as Amosov will have a field day picking him apart and winning on points.

Pick: Amosov

Valerie Loureda vs. Colby Fletcher

This is meant to be a showcase fight for Valerie Loureda, a taekwondo master with dreams of MMA glory. They’ve found a game opponent for her in Colby Fletcher, who has three pro bouts and one win by submission.

It’s unlikely that this one will get to the point where Loureda’s ground game is tested. Fletcher is a brawler who’s shown some improvement since her amateur days, but one has to think it won’t be enough to survive a prolonged standup contest against a fighter with Loureda’s traditional martial arts background. Throw in Loureda’s time spent with American Top Team and her handful of amateur bouts and it’s fair to assume she won’t be a fish out of water should this fight get mucked up.

Expect this one to have a few rough spots through the first two rounds before Loureda finds the telling blow in round three and gets the finish.

Pick: Loureda