Not for the first time, Kilkenny fighter Myles Price walked away victorious from the 3Arena on Saturday night.
The split decision victory over Waterford native Peter Queally puts an end – for now – to a storyline used to propel their co-main event at Bellator 217 to the biggest domestic MMA bout on record.
A packed 3Arena, Dublin, watched as Price made his way to the Bellator cage last night, booed by large sections of the home support.
On any other fight night, on any other card, it would have been the complete oppopsite.
Contrast that with Queally’s entrance to Zombie by The Cranberries, fans continuing to sing along as the introductions were made and bout got underway.
A grudge match for the ages
There’s nothing quite like a grudge match.
Battle lines are drawn, there’s a lot more respect, honour, bragging rights on the line. Energies and senses are heightened.
It will happen at Old Trafford on Sunday when Liverpool travel to take on Manchester United, and last night it played out in a thrilling co-main event.
Out-wrestled in his last professional outing by Bushmills’ Norman Parke (25-6-1) at Brave 13: European Evolution, Price (11-7) swapped Kilkenny for San Jose, California in August last year knowing that a return to action with Brave or BAMMA was on the cards.
Three months were spent at AKA – home to UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and, as is most-important to the storyline – UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
When Price departed for California, the running saga between Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor was playing out in the wake of events the press event for UFC 223. A date would be set for the two to meet at UFC 229, leaving Price training in the facility as part of Khabib’s camp.
Queally (11-5), having a close relationship McGregor as a teammate and sparring partner, has his own views on Price training at AKA.
Enter the ‘rat’ nametag from Quelly, Price adopting ‘Splinter’ in return in reference to Master Splinter (it’s a Turtles things).
A subsequent callout on the Eurobash podcast for MMA Fighting teed up Queally v Price for their respective Bellator debuts.
Hard fought, hard won
At the end of the day, what matters is what happens in the cage – not before.
Last night, Price brought his game plan, closed the distance between both men shut down Queally’s promise of ‘swinging bombs’.
The first round saw the majority of the action up against the fence, Price gunning for a single leg and using good head pressure to control Queally, but it was the SBG man doing the damage – short sharp shots and elbows opening a cut over Price’ left eye early.
Round two continued in the same vein as the first, Price more often than not the aggressor, again looking to reduce the distance between them with his pace before continuing to the fence.
Both fighters exploded seconds out from the ten minute mark, neither doing enough to suspend a third round.
If the judges were on the fence after rounds one and two, it was round three that swung the vote in favour of ‘Splinter’.
Price got the takedown he had been looking for since the opening bell with just over 90 seconds remaining.
Moving quick to take Queally’s back, try as he might, the RNC finish wasn’t there, but the control in the final third more than enough to sway the split decision.
As the referees called it, 29-28 (Queally), 29-28 (Price) and 29-28 (Price).
Back to work
The win sees Price climb to 11-7 and open the doors to a rather busy Bellator lightweight division.
With the promotion set to return to Dublin in September, it remains to be seen whether we’ll see Splinter fighting on home soil next, or whether he gets his wish of a bout in San Jose with his adopted AKA family.
For now though, it’s back to Team Ryano Kilkenny on Monday as work on the next phase of his Bellator journey begins.