Bellator MMA will roll out some of its heaviest hitters when the Scott Coker-led promotion touches down in Great Britain for the first time.
Former welterweight champion Douglas Lima will meet British knockout artist Paul Daley in the Bellator 158 main event on Friday at the O2 Arena in London. In the heavyweight co-headliner, Ultimate Fighting Championship vet Matt Mitrione locks horns with 2015 Inoki Genome Federation World Grand Prix winner Oli Thompson. The rest of the five-fight main card features a welterweight clash pitting the unbeaten Michael Page against Evangelista Santos, a light heavyweight scrap pairing Francis Carmont with Lukasz Klinger and a featherweight tilt matching James Gallagher with Mike Cutting.
Lima, 28, has not fought since he surrendered the Bellator welterweight crown to Andrey Koreshkov in a five-round unanimous decision a little less than a year ago, the defeat halting a run of five straight wins for the Atlanta-based Brazilian. A onetime Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder, he has been a staple of Bellator’s welterweight division since 2011, having beaten Steve Carl, Ben Saunders (twice) and Rick Hawn in compiling an 8-2 record in the organization.
Daley will carry a five-fight winning streak into the cage and owns a perfect 4-0 mark in Bellator. “Semtex” last fought at Bellator 148 on Jan. 29, when he needed exactly two minutes to dispose of Andy Uhrich before 5,425 fans at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. Wins over Daniel Weichel, Duane Ludwig, Martin Kampmann and Jorge Masvidal anchor the Daley resume. The 33-year-old former Cage Rage champion has delivered 28 of his 38 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout.
With the Daley-Lima battle front and center, here is what to watch for at Bellator 158:
No Rest for the Weary
Mitrione will answer another call to arms less than a month after he made his promotional debut, as he takes on Thompson, a British strongman who had a failed two-fight stint in the UFC in 2012.
A quarterfinalist on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Mitrione made his first organizational appearance against Carl Seumanutafa at Bellator 157 on June 24 in St. Louis. There, he weathered an early knockdown to stop Seumanutafa with a brutal standing-to-ground punch 3:22 into the first round. The knockout halted a two-fight losing streak for Mitrione, who exited the UFC on the heels of back-to-back defeats to Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell.
Thompson has rattled off five straight wins. The 36-year-old KSW and British Association of Mixed Martial Arts alum last fought on New Year’s Eve, when he put away Fernando Rodrigues Jr. with punches to win an eight-man Inoki Genome Federation tournament in Tokyo.
A Real Test
Page has thus far been more sideshow than contender at 170 pounds.
The undefeated Brit will put his 10-0 record on the line against Santos, a well-traveled 48-fight veteran who has fought for titles in Cage Rage and Strikeforce. Page has stopped nine of his first 10 opponents inside one round; only Nah-Shon Burrell survived the first five minutes with him, ultimately losing a unanimous decision. The 29-year-old last appeared at Bellator 153 on April 22, when he submitted Jeremie Holloway with an Achilles lock at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Santos in May saw his modest two-fight winning streak grind to a halt at Bellator 154, where he succumbed to punches from Saad Awad. The 38-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has been fighting professionally since 1997.
Carmont finds himself teetering on the brink of irrelevance.
The Tristar Gym export followed an 11-fight winning streak between Sept. 13, 2009 and Sept. 21, 2013 with defeats in four of his next six bouts. The Frenchman will enter his light heavyweight showcase against Klinger on the heels of a knockout loss to Phil Davis at Bellator 142 in September. Carmont, 34, sports 16 finishes among his 24 career wins and owns victories over Chris Camozzi, Magnus Cedenblad, Tom Lawlor, Lorenz Larkin and Costas Philippou.
All nine of Klinger’s fights -- seven wins and two losses -- have ended inside the distance. The 32-year-old Pole last competed at a regional event in Bulgaria on April 26, when he was victimized by an Atanas Djambazov knockout in just 15 seconds.
The undercard could serve as a launching pad for one of Europe’s top prospects, as the undefeated Pietro Menga takes on journeyman Spencer Hewitt at 125 pounds.
Menga has amassed a pristine 12-0 record, with 10 of those wins coming by knockout, technical or submission. However, he has not fought since he submitted Steve McCombe with a second-round rear-naked choke under the BAMMA banner in August 2014. Menga, 28, has already captured titles in the Full Contact Contender and Ultimate Cage Championships organizations.
A Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran, Hewitt has lost seven of his past nine bouts. The 37-year-old last appeared at a Contenders East Anglia event on Feb. 27, when he yielded to the unbeaten Jamie Powell in a three-round unanimous decision.