Scott Coker has made several shrewd moves since taking over as president of Bellator MMA last year. From booking grudge matches pitting Tito Ortiz against Stephan Bonnar and Ken Shamrock against Kimbo Slice, to partnering with GLORY kickboxing to present a joint fight card in September, Coker brought Bellator back into the national MMA discussion. He also made another shrewd move with Bellator’s most recent fight card.
Bellator 140 featured almost exclusively welterweight fighters, including two men competing for the welterweight title. Not only was a new champion crowned when Andrey Koreshkov topped Douglas Lima, but Bellator also showcased two welterweights who are ready to become the next big stars in MMA and a well-known welterweight who emphatically announced his return.
Michael “Venom” Page has all the tools to be a big star. He has a brash personality and loads of charisma inside and outside the cage. Oh yeah, the guy can fight too. He’s undefeated and knocked Rudy Bears (granted, he of the 16-15 career record) cold in the first round at Bellator 140. Regardless of whether he’s facing a fighter with the less-than-impressive record of Bears, Page continues to get better with each fight. It’s only a matter of time until he joins fighters like Will Brooks, Joe Warren and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal as one of the faces of Bellator.
Brennan Ward is another young fighter who is staking his claim as the future of Bellator. Ward, like Page, has a big personality to back up his skills. He also scored a first-round knockout win at Bellator 140 when he stopped Roger Carroll. However, Ward still needs more seasoning before he can be tabbed as the next big thing. Formerly a middleweight, Ward was submitted by then-champion Alexander Shlemenko last year and started his welterweight career with a 21-second knockout loss to Tamdan McCrory.
While Page and Ward are staking their claim as Bellator’s next big stars, a familiar face is reacquainting himself with MMA fans.
Paul Daley, the former UFC fighter most (in)famous for punching Josh Koscheck after the bell in their fight in 2010 and receiving his release from the UFC, scored his second consecutive Bellator win by knocking out Dennis Olson in the second round.
As fate would have it, Koscheck recently signed with Bellator. A rematch between the two is looking increasingly likely, as it fits right in Coker’s wheelhouse of booking grudge matches between longtime rivals. Ortiz/Bonnar and especially Kimbo/Shamrock did huge ratings for Bellator. While Daley/Koscheck 2 is not on the same level in terms of sexiness, it would likely continue Bellator’s run of respectable to very good ratings.
Bellator 140 almost served as a de facto welterweight tournament to determine who might be the next contender to Koreshkov, the newly crowned champion. In fact, I propose the following mini-tournament that harkens back to Bellator’s former incarnation to determine the true No. 1 welterweight contender:
Michael “Venom” Page vs. Josh Koscheck
Brennan Ward vs. Paul Daley
The young guns, Page and Ward, would get to test themselves against proven veterans. If Daley and Koscheck show the two that it’s not quite their time yet, then Bellator gets a notable rematch between two rivals — with a title shot on the line to boot.
Coker has loved to put on “big tent” events since taking over Bellator. You couldn’t get a much bigger tent than four of the biggest personalities in the same weight class squaring off for a chance at the belt.