Michael Page says he is still improving as a mixed martial artist. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Michael Page’s unblemished resume remained intact following a triumph over Nah-Shon Burrell at Bellator 128, but it was far from his most aesthetically pleasing performance.
Burrell neutralized much of Page’s flashy offense by closing the distance and repeatedly pressing his foe against the fence. The Strikeforce veteran did little else distinguish himself, however, which frustrated both those in attendance that night at Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., as well as Page himself.
Burrell’s efforts ultimately did not prove fruitful, as Page landed the fight’s most meaningful strikes en route to a unanimous decision victory. The fact that Page was forced to go the distance for the first time in his professional career wasn’t so disappointing. After all, he had to prove that he could swim in deep waters after finishing each of his first six opponents inside of one round. What irked Page the most was that Burrell’s pre-fight banter foreshadowed fireworks that never materialized.
“It was more frustrating because he was talking a lot of crap before the fight. I’m talking everywhere. Anywhere I saw him, even in the hotel he was talking crap,” Page told Sherdog.com this week. “I expected him to come out and be a little bit more wild and really try to go for it. I expected a lot more of a fight.”
At the very least, Page learned a valuable lesson that night. Too often he allowed Burrell to dictate the terms of their fight, a mistake he hopes to rectify when he returns to action against Curtis Millender at Bellator 134 “British Invasion” on Feb. 27.
“I was way too relaxed during that fight. I allowed myself to get comfortable in bad positions,” Page said. “He tried to play it close and pin me up against the cage. I just didn’t work hard enough at that point. I should have been doing a lot more work to create the space to make it uncomfortable for him to sit there.”
As one of the sport’s most intriguing and unique talents, each of Page’s outings draws its fair share of scrutiny. Still, the London Shootfighters product is very much a work in progress, with the Burrell fight as a solid example of where the 27-year-old has room to improve.
If all goes well, Millender will provide Page with another opportunity to showcase his creativity. And if his American opponent opts for a conservative approach, Page will be prepared for that, too.
“To be fair, if he’s smart he’s not gonna want to do that: He’s not gonna want me to showcase anything,” Page said. “He’s gonna want to close down the space, the same thing I expect from people anyway. He’s a striker. From what I’ve seen, he likes to be quite flamboyant as well, which hopefully means he’s gonna try to outstrike me first, which would mean everyone is gonna get a good show.”
It’s hard not to look ahead when plotting Page’s career path. A rapid ascent through the welterweight ranks is well within the realm of possibility given his unique style and flair for the spectacular. Page is exactly the type of fighter a promotion can get behind if everything falls into place.
For now, the Englishman doesn’t have a handle on when he expects officially vault into contention for Bellator’s welterweight strap.
“It’s how you feel more than anything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling really good,” he said. “I feel like I’m improving all the time, but just in my head, I’ve still got a lot to learn. When I’m matched up or training against a high-level whoever, I can feel the difference... I just want to feel like I can hang with absolutely everybody before I start talking about titles and stuff.”
Fantasy matchmakers have taken to pairing Page against Paul Daley, whose striking has made him a feared knockout artist since before “Venom” even considered stepping into a cage. That they share the same home country, weight class and card figures to only intensify such speculation.
Page isn’t taking the bait -- at least not yet.
“Everyone talks about that all the time. He’s a friend; we’re working together. He’s not someone that is on my radar at all,” he said. “We’ve already spoken about it ourselves. If that day comes where he’s got the title and I’m gunning for the title, then we have to do what we have to do. Other than that, it’s not in my thought process.”