Richard Kiely could well leave Dublin’s 3Arena on September 27 with his life forever changed if he can beat the global superstar Michael ‘Venom’ Page.
As unlikely as it might seem, by the time all is said and done on the night, we could well have another story worthy of the great tradition of Irish sporting underdogs.
Kiely, though certainly an unknown commodity in the grand scheme of things, has been quietly (or in his case quite vocally) carving out a reputation for himself as one of the sharpest tongues on the Bellator roster today.
And while such things generally have no bearing on the trajectory of your career in 99% of cases, by the time he gets in there with MVP, his five-fight career will have contained within it a BAMMA world-title shot and a matchup against one of the most popular fighters under Scott Coker’s banner at present.
Say what you want, but the man is doing something right.
After attending the official press conference for September’s Bellator Dublin, I was honestly struck after witnessing something akin to a ‘big fight feeling’ as Page and Kiely made their way to the stage.
The room fell silent save for a few excited hums as these two future opponents took to their assigned positions.
Had this meeting taken place anywhere other than the Irish capital, of course, the narrative would have been clear and the reception would have likely been muted.
In the eyes of most, this is a Michael ‘Venom’ Page tune-up fight – a showcase that will allow him to score an impressive win and in many ways, allow him to put to bed the memories of his KO defeat at the hands of Douglas Lima in the Bellator Welterweight Grand-Prix semi-final.
And yet, those of us who know Richard Kiely are aware of exactly how important a fight this is for his career and the future he is looking to carve out for himself.
After relentless verbal jabs taken at anyone at 170lb who would listen, Page was the first to bite – no doubt confident in the matchup and his chances of winning it.
And why wouldn’t he be confident against a 3-1 fighter with very little in the way of hype behind him outside of those who reside within the Irish MMA scene?
His demeanour throughout was one of complete disinterest and he had no issue telling both Kiely and the media present that he is, in fact, overlooking the Irishman while maintaining a more focused eye on a London return later this year.
Perhaps he’s simply talking sh*t but through his dismissive words, I can’t have been the only one who felt the potential for an almighty upset brewing quietly.
I’m not going to get into the matchup from a stylistic point of view too much but as far as styles making fights, what we have here is a showdown between two men who have spent their lives immersed in the striking arts, two men who possess the power and finesse to find their mark and end the bout at a moment’s notice.
Grappling likely won’t play a factor here and with the threat of the takedown minimal, we’ll see these two kickboxers in a state of fluid freedom on the feet.
Maybe Kiely doesn’t find his mark.
Maybe he gets completely outclassed from the get-go and the supposed difference in class becomes very, very apparent early on.
With that being said, it is worth noting that Page will be taking this bout just over four months after being brutally knocked out by the former champion Lima in one of the year’s most violent finishes to date.
In terms of name-value, it’s easy to write this fight off before things even get started but as the old saying goes, anything can happen with those 4oz gloves when the cage doors close and as we all know, the Irish fans can make Dublin’s premier fighting venue a hostile ol’ environment when the mood strikes.
History will show us that the sheer stubbornness of the fighting Irish has been enough to leave the world in awe in the past so I would urge you to keep an eye on this fight because you truly never know when another absolute shocker is about to hit.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena