Bellator 281 Report: Logan Storley defeats Michael “Venom” Page to earn Interim Welterweight Championship
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator 281 took place on Friday afternoon, from the SSE Arena in London, England. This was a card that was originally set to be headlined by Yaroslav Amosov attempting to defend his welterweight championship for the first time, however, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Amosov withdrew from the card, as he stayed home to defend his country. As a result, it was decided that an interim championship would be introduced, and Amosov’s originally scheduled opponent, Michael “Venom” Page, remained on the card, now facing Logan Storley with the interim title on the line. Storley’s lone professional loss came by split decision to Amosov, so following a decisive win over Neiman Gracie in his last bout, Storley was a strong choice to replace Amosov in the main event slot here. For Page, this notably marked MVP’s first title fight, an opportunity he earned by avenging his loss to Douglas Lima. In the co-main event, MMA legend Lyoto Machida faced Fabian Edwards, and this card also featured Paul Daley’s retirement bout, as the knockout artist faced Wendell Giacomo. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Dave Farrar and John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thomson and Aidan Power.
*Chiara Penco def. Lanchana Green by unanimous decision (29–28, 30–27, 30–27)
*Maciej Różański def. Lee Chadwick by unanimous decision (29–28, 30–27, 30–27)
*Charlie Ward def. Alan Carlos by unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 30–25)
*Andrew Fisher def. Attila Korkmaz by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Tim Wilde vs. Alfie Davis resulted in a majority draw (29–27, 28–28, 28–28)
*Oliver Enkamp def. Mark Lemminger by buggy choke at 0:25 of Round 3
*Elina Kallionidou def. Kate Jackson by TKO at 4:53 of Round 2
*Daniel Weichel def. Rob Whiteford by TKO at 1:12 of Round 1
*Simon Biyong def. Luke Trainer by unanimous decision (29-27, 28-27, 29-28)
*Paul Daley def. Wendell Giacomo by KO at 4:09 of Round 2
*Kana Watanabe def. Denise Kielholtz by triangle choke at 3:03 of Round 2
*Fabian Edwards def. Lyoto Machida by KO at 3:18 of Round 1
*Logan Storley def. Michael “Venom” Page by split decision (49-46, 48-47, 47-48) to win the Interim Bellator Welterweight Championship
LUKE TRAINER (5-0, 205) VS SIMON BIYONG (7-2, 205.2) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Biyong began the fight with a stiff jab. Trainer started to work his own jab in response, which prompted Biyong to close the distance and press Trainer against the cage. Biyong proceeded to take Trainer down, and he began to work from half guard. Trainer attempted to work his way up against the cage, and as Biyong attempted to drag him back down, Trainer reversed the position and took the back of Biyong with ninety seconds remaining in the round. Trainer flattened Biyong out, and he began to hunt for a rear-naked choke. The submission didn’t come, but this was a dominant end to the round for Trainer. 10-9 Trainer.
The fighters traded body shots to begin the second round. Biyong rocked Trainer badly with a straight right hand, sending Trainer to the ground as a result. Biyong followed him down as he looked to finish the fight, throwing down wild hammerfists from full mount. This round was beginning to look like round three of Luke Rockhold versus Chris Weidman, but Trainer was able to roll into top position, where he bought himself some time to recover. Unfortunately for Trainer, he could not keep the position for long, and Biyong worked his way back on top, where he continued to throw down damaging ground and pound. Trainer made it out of the round, but I thought Biyong did enough to earn a 10-8 round here. 19-18 Biyong.
Both men looked exhausted by the third round. Biyong slowly pressured forward, and eventually threw a pair of right hands that grounded Trainer once more. Biyong took his back on the ground, before transitioning to half guard. Biyong did not do the damage from this position that he did in the first round, but he racked up a significant amount of control time, and Trainer was unable to mount much offense of his own before time expired. 29-27 Biyong.
WINNER: Simon Biyong by unanimous decision (29-27, 28-27, 29-28)
It’s not very often you see a 28-27 scorecard, but one judge must have seen round one as such a dominant round from Trainer, that he earned a 10-8 on that judge’s scorecard. Personally, I didn’t see it that way at all, but regardless, Biyong won the fight on every judge’s scorecard, which was the right decision. Trainer looked very solid at points throughout this fight, but Biyong’s power was just a bit too much for him here, damaging Trainer every time a big shot landed. Biyong improved to 1-1 in Bellator MMA with this win.
PAUL DALEY (42-18-2, 174.4) VS WENDELL GIACOMO (9-2, 174.2) – CATCHWEIGHT
Giacomo connected with a one-two, before pressing Daley against the cage as he attempted to take his opponent down. Giacomo was eventually successful, and he took the back of Daley with over three minutes left on the clock. Giacomo transitioned to top position, where he began to work from half guard. Daley rolled into top position as Giacomo attempted an armbar. Giacomo rolled for a kneebar, which forced Daley to give up the position, and time expired in the round not long after.
Daley connected with an overhand right before throwing a jumping knee that partially found its target. Daley was a bit too wild with his offense, and Giacomo was able to change levels and take him back down as a result. Much like the first round, Giacomo was able to stick to the back of Daley for the vast majority of the round, but Daley scrambled into top position with time winding down in the round. This time, Daley opted to return to his feet, and he immediately rocked Giacomo with a looping left hook as Giacomo attempted to stand back up. Giacomo was hurt badly, and Daley gave him no room to recover, just swarming him with strikes against the cage, before finally knocking him out cold with a heavy right hand.
WINNER: Paul Daley by KO at 4:09 of Round 2
Daley had lost nearly every minute of this fight prior to the finish, but he was able to create an opportunity for himself in the final minute of the second round, and he fully capitalized on the moment, knocking Giacomo out in vicious fashion. Giacomo gave a good account of his abilities here despite the loss, especially considering that he took this fight on short notice after Daley’s initially scheduled opponent, Andrey Koreshkov, pulled out. This fight was promoted as Paul Daley’s retirement bout, and the 39-year-old fighter did not change his mind after the result of the bout, bringing his mother into the cage, and thanking everybody who supported him over the years. If this was indeed Daley’s final MMA bout, he will retire with a professional record of 44-18-2, with 35 knockouts. Some of Daley’s most notable victories include wins over the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Lorenz Larkin, Martin Kampmann, and Thales Leites.
DENISE KIELHOLTZ (6-3, 124.2) VS KANA WATANABE (10-1-1, 125.2) – FLYWEIGHT
Kielholtz immediately seemed to rock Watanabe with a left hook, but Watanabe was able to take Kielholtz down before she could follow up on the big shot. Kielholtz attempted an armbar off of her back, however, she was unsuccessful, and Watanabe ultimately began to work from her guard. Watanabe transitioned to the back of Kielholtz late in the round, where she attempted a rear-naked choke, but was unable to lock it in before time expired in the round.
Watanabe immediately brought the fight back to the ground to begin the second round. As Watanabe attempted a leg lock, Kielholtz kicked her in the face, which was a very clear foul. A point was deducted from Watanabe, but the referee took away her position, and the fight resumed on the feet. Regardless, Watanabe quickly took the fight back to the ground, and she trapped Kielholtz in a triangle choke, where Kielholtz was forced to submit.
WINNER: Kana Watanabe by triangle choke at 3:03 of Round 2
Watanabe was in trouble early but dominated the final half of this fight before ultimately securing the submission. I thought her grappling looked great throughout this bout, and Kielholtz did not have many answers for Watanabe after she was taken down. After getting stopped quickly in her last bout by Liz Carmouche, this was a great way for Watanabe to bounce back. As it stands, Watanabe is the third-ranked fighter in the flyweight division, and she will move into the number two spot after defeating Kielholtz. It may be too soon for her to face Carmouche again, who is now the division’s champion, but a bout against the former champion, Juliana Velasquez, would be a very sensible next bout for Watanabe.
LYOTO MACHIDA (26-11, 185) VS FABIAN EDWARDS (9-2, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Machida and Edwards exchanged leg kicks throughout the opening minutes of the bout. Edwards pressured forward with a combination of hooks, trapping Machida against the cage. Machida took Edwards down, but Edwards popped right back to his feet and caught Machida with an elbow. Edwards continued to press Machida against the cage as the fight returned to the feet, but on the break, he just leveled Machida with another big elbow, rocking Machida badly this time. Edwards swarmed Machida as he attempted to finish the fight, and Edwards dropped Machida against the cage, where he proceeded to knock a grounded Machida out cold with a huge follow-up shot.
WINNER: Fabian Edwards by KO at 3:18 of Round 1
Edwards tagged Machida with an elbow on the break earlier in the bout, and he must have recognized that as a weakness in Machida’s game, because he went for it again following their next exchange in the clinch, and this one sent Machida stumbling to the canvas. It was a rather brutal finish, but thankfully Machida was cognisant and back on his feet before the result was announced. Edwards had lost his two previous bouts, so this was a much-needed win for him, and in his post-fight interview, Edwards made it clear that he is willing to fight anybody next, calling himself a legend in his own right. For Machida, this marked the 43-year-old fighter’s fourth consecutive loss, and he is certainly nearing the end of his career. Some of his recent losses have been close fights, and this was the first time in which he’s been stopped since 2017, but he is clearly several steps slower than he was in his prime, and this was arguably his toughest loss to date.
MICHAEL “VENOM” PAGE (20-1, 168.6) VS LOGAN STORLEY (13-1, 169.4) – INTERIM BELLATOR WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
MVP pressured forward to begin the fight, backing Storley into the cage. Storley chased after a single leg, but Page’s takedown defense held up fairly well. Storley did eventually get him down; however, he was unable to do much from the position they were in against the cage, and Page did a good job of limiting the damage from Storley. Eventually, time expired in the round, and Storley likely took this one on the scorecards based on control time alone. 10-9 Storley.
Page defended a takedown attempt from Storley, and he seemed to be growing in confidence as a result, taunting Storley as he pressed forward. Eventually, Storley was able to change levels and trap MVP against the cage, where this round began to look a lot like the previous one. Storley did not do a ton of damage from top position, but Page was unable to escape before the end of the round. 19-19.
MVP began the third round with a flying knee, and he followed that up with a strong hook. Eventually, Page attempted to close the distance with a right hand, and was taken right back to the ground as a result. Once again, Storley was very inactive from top position, as Page was doing a lot defensively to keep Storley from advancing. Storley was given constant warnings to stay busy, but he was able to do just enough to prevent a stand up. 29-28 Page.
Page landed some strong shots throughout the opening minute, that Storley took well to his credit. MVP was very selective with his strikes here, not wanting to be caught off guard by another level change. Storley did not attempt a takedown until the final ninety seconds of the round, where he quickly succeeded in taking Page back to the ground. I gave the round to MVP based on damage (as I had for rounds two and three as well), but I did not envy the judges here. 39-37 Page.
Storley was able to take Page right back to the ground following an early flying knee attempt from MVP. Storley dominated the near entirety of this round with his wrestling, but continued to do very little damage from top position, attempting no submissions either. I did score this round for Storley, but perhaps controversially, I scored the fight as a whole, 48-47 in favor of MVP.
WINNER: Logan Storley by split decision (49-46, 48-47, 47-48) to win the Interim Bellator Welterweight Championship
I was not surprised to see Storley get the nod here, despite scoring the bout for Page myself. Storley racked up a great deal of control time throughout the bout, and if you were just watching this fight without knowledge of the scoring criteria, you would probably see him winning nearly winning every round based on that control time alone. With that being said, damage is supposed to be the first factor taken into account when scoring a round, and Storley did absolutely no damage throughout the entirety of this fight. As a result, I scored three rounds for Page based on damage, and the two I gave to Storley were the ones in which Page did so little that I couldn’t justify giving him the round either. This was not a good fight, but MVP is a tricky fighter, and I don’t think you can fault Storley for fighting how he did when you factor in the result of the bout. Storley is now the Interim Bellator Welterweight Champion, but it is truly a complete unknown as to when Yaroslav Amosov will be able to return, as he defends his home country of Ukraine. Hopefully, he will remain safe and return to competition soon, but this may very well be one of those cases in which an interim champion has to defend his title, as there is no timetable for the champion’s return. If that is the case, I imagine the winner of the upcoming Jason Jackson/Douglas Lima bout will be Storley’s next opponent.