It took a little while for birthday boy Cheick Kongo to get rolling on Saturday night.
But once he did, his Bellator 120 fight turned into a party. Fighting on his 39th birthday, Kongo rallied from a slow start and scored a TKO victory over Eric Smith in the featured Spike prelim fight at the Landers Center in suburban Memphis.
Smith, a Boise, Idaho-based fighter making his Bellator debut, got off to a solid start in the first round. With a 19-pound weight advantage, Smith bodylocked Kongo and got him to the mat with a half-slam, half-takedown.
Smith started raining right hands down on Kongo as he struggled to get to his fight. Kongo weathered the storm, and Smith was spent. Kongo launched into a vintage Muay Thai beatdown, but Smith was saved by the bell.
In the second, Kongo, who is just six weeks removed from going five rounds in a Bellator heavyweight title fight, took Smith down and smothered him, landing knees to keep Smith honest. This time, when they got back to their feet, Kongo finished the job, landing big knees to the head and causing referee John McCarthy to call off the bout at the 4:35 mark.
"Today is my birthday," said Kongo. "I am 39. I want to compete again, and want to do it for you guys."
Kongo improved to 21-9-2 with his 15th career finish. He's 3-1 in Bellator. Smith dropped to 6-2 with a no-contest.