By Raphael Garcia
Bellator 158 may be remembered as a “coming out party” of sorts for Michael “Venom” Page. Even though he already has a catalog of highlight-reel knockouts in his back pocket, that didn’t stop him from adding Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos to the list. The question now becomes whether Bellator should continue to feed him easier fights before unleashing him on the best in the division. The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes.”
Page represents one of the few roster members that can be considered a home-grown personality. Bellator MMA has made it a point to stay away from spending big dollars on any UFC castoff, which has forced the organization to build itself around the names of men like Michael Chandler, Patricio Freire, and others. Even though the company has built cards around UFC veterans such as Kimbo Slice, Benson Henderson, and Josh Thomson, Bellator has always looked to create a star that it can truly call its own.
The only other competitor of note on Page’s resume of destruction is Nah-Shon Burrell, who has UFC win and a decision loss to top-ranked welterweight Stephen Thompson on his ledger. Other than that, Page has been kept away from opponents that can shatter his undefeated streak. But before pitting him against the likes of Douglas Lima, Paul Daley, or Andrey Koreshkov, the company should continue to build him up against second-tier talent. The UFC matchmakers are doing such with Sage Northcutt, they did that with Conor McGregor before he broke through to the top, and they will continue to do so with other men and women poised to become breakthrough stars. Bellator doing the same with Page is certainly understandable.
Josh Koscheck jumps off the list as a competitor that could potentially challenge Page and bring name value to his resume.
But regardless of the specific opponent, the plan to continue slowly building Page towards title contention and mainstream attention is the right path. Mixed martial arts is rife with examples of promising talents that were pushed too soon, only to fall short and fade away. Bellator needs to find a way to build its own stable of must-see competitors, and growing Page through carefully-picked bouts is the right tactic at this time.
• Michael Page vs. Evangelista Santos: Michael Page def. Evangelista Santos via knockout at 4:31 of Round 2.
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Bellator 158: London took place on July 16, 2016 at The O2 in London, England.