Cheick Kongo wasn’t invited to be a part of the recently concluded Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, but it looks like a title shot is going to his anyway.
The 43-year old Paris native grinded his way to victory over former Bellator heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov on Saturday night’s Bellator 216 main card en route to a unanimous decision victory. The judges’ scores were 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s in favor of Kongo.
The victory was Kongo’s eighth in a row; 10th in his last 12; and was his Bellator heavyweight record 12th victory. It also avenged a 2014 loss to the previously undefeated Minakov.
Kongo got things off in familiar fashion of sorts, as he landed a solid knee to the groin in the clinch in the opening round. Following the restart, Minakov came out swinging, and the first ended up being the most action-filled round of the fight, with a case to be made for either fighter.
The second round? Well, if you remember the matchup between Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou, this appeared to be an attempt to mimic that bout. After four minutes of a fierce staring contest, though, Kongo was active in the final minute and landed solid shots to the jaw, which was enough to take the round.
The third saw Minakov score a takedown, then spent most of the round in top position. He worked a north-south choke which didn’t quite put Kongo away. Kongo got back to his feet and throw a sharp flurry of punches in the closing minute, which was apparently enough to sway the judge who scored the fight 30-27.
Bellator president Scott Coker said the winner of this fight would get a title shot against newly crowned heavyweight champ Ryan Bader. And while the fight was lackluster, Kongo said it was due to the fact he was ill all week.
“I was sick, I could not eat I could not digest anything,” Kongo (30-10-2) said. “At the weigh-in my weight was pretty low I had to deal with this all week. I fight for you guys tonight.”
Minakov, in his first Bellator fight since his victory over Kongo in their first fight, dropped to 21-1.