If Michael "Venom" Page's return to the Bellator MMA cage after 18 months taught us anything on Friday, it's that 18 months is entirely too long.
Page, one of the most entertaining and unorthodox fighters in all of mixed martial arts, proved exactly why by dealing a demoralizing second-round TKO defeat to David Rickels in the co-main event of Bellator 200 at the SSE Arena in London.
A 6-foot-3 welterweight, Page (13-0) relied on his speed and length to land a series of highlight-reel strikes almost at will. He also taunted Rickels (19-5) relentlessly, which led to a somewhat bizarre finish as "The Caveman," who was still on his feet, verbally forfeited after a right hand from Page busted him open above the right eye.
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Page dropped his hands and ranted at Rickels until the 29-year-old, in his first fight since moving back up to 170 pounds, waved his hand at referee Rob Hinds to end the fight at 43 seconds of the second round.
"This is as sharp as a I have felt," Page said. "I went through a hellish training camp, back to back to back because I was training for a fight that never happened. Eighteen months later, I am here in front of the best crowd. You guys support me until the end. London I love you."
The victory was so dominant for Page, arguably the finest prospect in Bellator, that it was eerily reminiscent of Anderson Silva toying with Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in 2009. His spectacular return also ended a long layoff which included injury and failed attempts at securing a fight against Paul Daley. Page also made his pro boxing last October, winning by third-round TKO against Jonathan Castano.
A native of London, Page dedicated the fight to his late cousin, Helena Ramsay, who a victim of February's Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Page, who hadn't fought in Bellator since a split-decision win over Fernando Gonzalez in 2016, had such an easy time landing clean punches to the face of Rickels in the opening round that he refused to rush in after dropping him and allowed his opponent back up in order to continue the assault.
The theatrics only continued to open Round 2 as Page danced around, mimicking that he was jumping rope while trash talking, before opening with an axe kick to the face. A flush lead right hand and a three-punch combination appeared to hurt Rickels just before the final punch forced the finish.
"These guys give me energy," Page said about the London crowd. "These lights, Bellator, this cage -- this is my home. Are you crazy? I would never feel pressure.
"Just let me click my fingers. I'm taking over everybody, everybody."