It wasn’t long ago when Cheick Kongo was somewhat of a journeyman in the UFC. Just a little less than a year later he is fighting for the Bellator heavyweight title against champion Vitaly Minakov. More than likely, Kongo will walk out of the Reno Events Center as the new champ on Friday.
Kongo defeated Peter Graham (unanimous decision) and Mark Godbeer (TKO) to get to this point. He will take plenty of UFC experience into the fight.
Looking at the bout from an unbiased point-of-view, Kongo is better than Minakov in most areas. The only questionable area for Kongo is his ground game. A striker by trade, Kongo will want to keep the fight standing. He works well in the clinch and could pick Minakov apart from there. Minakov is also clearly the better wrestler, considering he is a four-time world champion in sambo.
It will be interesting to see if Minakov will be able to take the Frenchman down. In his title victory over Alexander Volkov, Minakov attempted several times to take his Russian counterpart to the ground. It was only when he reversed position that he was able to take control of the fight. He eventually ended the fight after an early stoppage by the ref.
Kongo should be able to exploit his strength in the stand up and gauge the distance to prevent Minakov from taking him down. Kongo will win this bout by decision and become the new Bellator heavyweight champion.
Kongo should do well as the face of the heavyweight division. Given the shallow pool of the Bellator heavyweight division, it is possible that this won’t be the last meeting between these two fighters.