During the broadcast of Bellator 237, former referee turned commentator “Big” John McCarthy mentioned that Michael Page’s schedule through his career so far has been similar in terms of difficulty to that of former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva through the same stretch. Since Page has developed the reputation of a can smasher, this comment raised the ire of many MMA fans on social media. On its face, the comment is absurd. In his first 18 fights, Silva claimed the Shooto middleweight (168-pound) championship and knocked off a former UFC welterweight champion. But is the comparison really that outlandish?
Using Fight Matrix ranking points, it is possible to approximate the level of difficulty both fighters have faced through their first 18 fights. Every year, the website publishes the “Upsets of the Year” award. The most simple calculation is “Most Noteworthy,” which is the difference in ranking points (ranking points of a fighter minus the ranking points of an opponent). The higher the number, the larger the favorite. Through their first 18 fights, Page’s average most noteworthy score is 22.83, while Silva’s 21.61. However, that does not tell the entire story. Page’s average is buttressed by his fight against Douglas Lima. He went in as a heavy underdog against the Bellator champion and got knocked out in the second round. Without that fight, his average most noteworthy score rises to 41.35.
Also, Page’s level of opposition has declined significantly following his only career defeat. He has been a heavy favorite in his last three fights over Richard Keily, Gianni Melillo and Shinzo Anzai. The spike on the following chart is quite evident.
(Click here for the interactive Tableau Public version of this chart)
It would also be unfair to Silva to ignore that fact that his a large portion of his early opposition went on to have solid careers. When he fought Luiz Azeredo, Fabricio Camoes and Roan Carneiro they were a combined 3-2. All three went on to have extensive careers in major promotions such as the UFC and Pride FC. While those fighters blossomed later in their careers, it seems unlikely that will happen for some of Page’s early opponents. His first two opponents, Ben Dishman and Miguel Bernard, are still a combined 0-6 nearly eight years later.
While it does seem like large McCarthy was shilling from the commentary booth, Page’s early career run has not been that facile. However, his team and Bellator have clearly tried to give him a softer touch as of late.
Richard Mann is a regular contributor to @ESPNMMA, @FightMetric, @RotoWireMMA and @InterMat. You can follow him on Twitter at @richardamann.