Bellator 115: Vitaly Minakov Outworks Cheick Kongo In Making Successful First Title Defense

By Rick LaFitte
Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov
Kevin Jairaj – USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t particularly high on the entertainment scale, but Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov will certainly take the win. The Russian heavyweight was successful in his first title defense at Bellator 115, as he was able to grind out a unanimous decision victory over former UFC veteran Cheick Kongo. The 25-minute contest was mostly spent on the ground, and it was Minakov who emerged with the well-earned 48-46 verdict on all three of the judges’ scorecards. His takedowns were key throughout, as he was able to effectively negate Kongo’s attack.

Minakov won the title with a first round knockout of Alexander Volkov and made it five straight wins under the Bellator banner in what was arguably his most physically demanding fight. The decorated Sambo specialist had never been the five-round distance before, and the fatigue factor was evident at times.

The champion was docked a point for low blows in the opening round, but did the most damage by rocking Kongo with a right hand. Minakov again wobbled the Frenchman in Round 2 with a right hand to the temple, but failed to press the advantage. The only danger for Minakov was in Round 4 when the powerful Kongo was able to take him down and maintain control from top position. However, he was unable to do much in the way of significant damage.

The final round saw Minakov ensure there would be no dramatic comeback from Kongo, as he scored a takedown in the opening seconds and dominated his exhausted opponent from top position, landing numerous strikes and keeping him on his back.

Minakov is now 14-0 to begin his career after earning just his second decision victory. He has 12 finishes by knockout or submission. Minakov now awaits the winner of Bellator’s Season 10 heavyweight tournament for his next title defense.

As for Kongo, it was a disappointing performance after two successful efforts inside the Bellator cage against Mark Godbeer and Peter Graham. It remains to be seen what’s next for the 38 year old who may be getting near the end of the road after a 31-fight career. The loss dropped Kongo to 20-9-2.

Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports.

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