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Michael Page thought he had Douglas Lima right where he wanted him. He could not have been more mistaken.
Lima punched -- and quite literally so -- his ticket to the Bellator MMA welterweight grand prix final, as he knocked out the previously unbeaten London Shootfighters star in the second round of their Bellator 221 co-main event on Saturday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Page hit the deck in an unconscious heap 35 seconds into Round 2, substance having conquered style.
After a cautious first round from both men, chaos ensued. Page clipped the Atlanta-based Brazilian with a right hand to the temple that shook his equilibrium and resulted in his hitting the reset button. Lima countered the oncoming Brit with a powerful leg kick that swept him off of his feet and then blasted the karateka with an uppercut as he tried to stand. Page folded and landed face up on the canvas, where he was met with hammerfists before referee Mike Beltran could arrive on the scene.
Lima now turns his attention to the winner of the other grand prix semifinal between current welterweight champion Rory MacDonald and the undefeated Neiman Gracie, scheduled for Bellator 222 on June 14 in New York.
In the aftermath of Bellator 221, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Patricio Freire vs. Benson Henderson: In a champion-versus-champion superfight between the two most accomplished fighters in Bellator history, Freire came away with yet another signature victory. “Pitbull” put away Michael Chandler with first-round punches and captured the lightweight crown in the headliner, as the reigning featherweight champion joined Ryan Bader as a simultaneous two-division titleholder. Chandler succumbed to blows 61 seconds into Round 1, and while there was controversy surrounding referee Rob Madrigal’s decision to intervene, it figures to go down as little more than a footnote. Freire has unfinished business with Henderson, as their August 2016 encounter ended after the Brazilian injured his leg in the second round.
A.J. McKee vs. Henry Corrales: McKee continued his climb into the upper reaches of Bellator’s talent-rich featherweight division and kept his perfect record intact with a unanimous decision over two-time champion Pat Curran. All three judges struck scorecards in the Team Bodyshop export’s favor: 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26. McKee has won all 14 of his fights as a professional and could challenge for the 145-pound championship at some point in the not-too-distant future. The resurgent Corrales laid waste to McKee’s longtime friend and teammate Aaron Pico at Bellator 214 in January and has not tasted defeat in more than three years. The former King of the Cage champion finds himself on a five-fight winning streak.
Michael Page vs. Lorenz Larkin: Ahead of Page’s welterweight grand prix semifinal, most observers believed his time as an undefeated fighter was running short. Lima brought that reality into focus in the clearest of terms, as he knocked “Venom” senseless with early second-round punches and denied his bid to move deeper into the tournament. Nevertheless, Page remains a key player for Bellator as it expands its horizons and attempts to carve out a more substantial piece of the MMA pie. Expect another high-profile assignment before the promotion’s 2019 campaign runs its course. Larkin last competed at Bellator 207, where he posted a three-round unanimous decision over Ion Pascu on Oct. 12.
Tywan Claxton vs. Noad Lahat: Claxton has become impossible to ignore at 145 pounds. The self-coached 26-year-old moved to 5-0 with four finishes, as he tortured James Bennett for two-plus rounds before eliciting a merciful stoppage from referee Kevin MacDonald 2:09 into the third. Claxton appears to have all the skills necessary to swim with the sharks in the featherweight division and figures to see another increase in his degree of difficulty in the months ahead. A former blue-chip prospect who never quite reached the heights that were predicted for him, Lahat last appeared at Bellator 210 in November, when the Xtreme Couture representative was awarded a unanimous decision over Brian Moore.