Although it has been just over two years since Douglas Lima scored a second-round knockout of Michael Page at Bellator 221 to hand the dynamic "MVP" his lone pro defeat, it's hard to ignore how much has changed entering their rematch.
The pair of welterweight contenders will meet in Page's backyard of Wembley Arena in London on Friday (Showtime, 4 p.m. ET) in the main event of Bellator 267, where the stocks of both fighters are trending in entirely different directions.
Page (19-1) has won five straight since the loss to Lima, which took place in a semifinal bout of the Bellator Welterweight World Grand Prix. Four of those wins have come by knockout yet as Page, 34, has finally shown the type of maturity and focus fitting of a proper title contender after initially making his name upon highlight-reel finishes.
On the other hand, the three-time welterweight champion Lima (32-9) enters on a bit of a surprising losing streak. After defeating Rory MacDonald in their Bellator 232 rematch to regain the 170-pound title and win the Grand Prix tournament, Lima has lost consecutive title bouts to middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi and new welterweight king Yaroslav Amosov.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news.
Although both defeats came by decision, Lima seemed to lack an extra gear needed to rally against elite competition. It's something Page has taken notice of, which is why he believes Lima is ripe for the picking entering their second fight.
"I have evolved, he is stuck in his ways," Page said at Wednesday's media teleconference. "Since we last fought, he has not done anything in his fights that shows me he is different or got better. On the other hand, I have evolved and changed my diet and training to become a completely new, faster and better fighter."
The first meeting between the two fighters, which took place in Rosemont, Illinois, was nothing short of an exciting affair. Page landed a big punch in Round 1 to get the former champion's attention. But Page's occasionally reckless style caught up with him in Round 2 when Lima caught a kick attempt from Page, which caused his opponent to slip.
Lima swarmed in to land a right uppercut that knocked an off-balanced Page out cold.
Not only does Lima expect a repeat of their first fight, he disagrees with those who believe Page was winning at the time of the stoppage.
"[Page] is very crafty, and he moves a lot. I expect him to stay on the outside more and not allow me to close the distance," Lima said. "But, at the end of the day, I see the same fighter as last time and I expect the same result.
"I do not agree he was winning the [first] fight. The only thing he did was that one punch. I landed on him and was on top of him for the first round. I guess it is good for his mental [health] to convince himself he was winning, but I know how it was going, and I was winning. The same will happen Friday night."
From Page's standpoint, the rematch will offer him an opportunity to show Lima, and everyone else in the division, just how evolved his game has become since his lone defeat.
"I love striking and prefer that, but if I am not capable anywhere else, it takes away from my striking," Page said. "If I get taken down and can't get back up, then what does my striking do? I need to be well-rounded in order to be complete. I actually enjoy Jiu-Jitsu, though. It allows my creative personality to flourish.
"My personality has always been quite petty. And, in this case, a loss, then I have to get you back. I am looking forward to getting this loss back and showing how much I have improved since our last fight."
The undercard fills out nicely with a huge European flair given it's the first event to take place in London since the beginning of the pandemic. The co-main event features a women's featherweight contest between Leah McCourt and Jessica Borga. A pair of veterans meet at featherweight in a featured contest when Robert Whiteford takes on Andrew Fisher. Plus, light heavyweights Luke Trainer and Yannick Bahati square off in what should be an explosive contest, and lightweights get the main card going when Tim Wilde takes on Yves Landu.
Let's take a look at the fight card and odds via Caesars Sportsbook before making a prediction on the main event.
Fight card, odds
- Michael Page -125 vs. Douglas Lima +105, welterweights
- Leah McCourt -625 vs. Jessica Borga +450, women's featherweights
- Robert Whiteford -260 vs. Andrew Fisher +210, featherweights
- Luke Trainer -450 vs. Yannick Bahati +350, light heavyweights
- Tim Wilde -220 vs. Yves Landu +180, lightweights
Bellator 267 viewing information
Date: Oct. 1 | Start time: 4 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. prelims)
Location: Wembley Arena -- London
TV Channel: Showtime | Stream: Showtime App
Although the first fight was explosive, the rematch will likely be more of a tactical affair given Page's evolution. The deciding factor could very well be which fighter is able to establish himself as the aggressor to keep the fight on his terms.
Given his prowess as a dangerous leg striker, which could do wonders to slow his elusive foe, Lima will need to get inside of Page's reach advantage and do his best to back his opponent up to the cage since Page is much more dangerous when he has room to operate.
Page, meanwhile, will need to establish his jab as a consistent weapon and something he can build off of to land his power shots and try and will Lima into the same submissive funk that saw him follow Mousasi around without being able to fully regain the momentum.
Expect this fight to test just how strong Page's fight IQ and adaptability can be, which previously were hallmarks of Lima's game before the losing skid. Should the betting odds be an accurate description of just how even this fight should be, one can also expect it to go the distance, especially if Page is more focused on winning than trying to look spectacular.
Pick: Page via UD5