Bellator 115 Play: Cheick Kongo (+240) vs Vitaly Minakov (-280)

00 Vitaly MinakovBellator 115 Date: April 4, 2014 Arena: Reno Events Center City: Reno, NV Heavyweight title bout: Cheick Kongo (+240) vs Vitaly Minakov (-280) Fight Breakdown: The Bellator 115 main event will be a heavyweight title fight between champion Vitaly Minakov and challenger Cheick Kongo. Minakov is the favorite in this match-up at -280 ($280 to win $100), while Kongo is the underdog at +240 ($100 to win $240) at Several Bookmakerss. Cheick Kongo (20-8-2 MMA, 2-0 Bellator) was not resigned by the UFC after going 4-2-1 in his last seven bouts with the promotion. It would have been 5-2, if not for a point he was deducted for grabbing Travis Browne’s shorts in their match-up, which cost him a win in a bout that eventually resulted in a draw. The decision to let him walk was likely due to the unfortunate fact that he had been knocked out twice in his last three fights. At his age(38), the UFC brass assumed it would only get worse. I personally did not agree with the decision. Since being released, Kongo has signed with Bellator, and gone 2-0 in the promotion. The Frenchman works a nice jab, and uses his reach and distance really well. He is a powerful, well-rounded heavyweight who works well inside the clinch against the cage. He likes to use his knees from that position, attacking his opponents legs and body, which ultimately slows them down. Other than that, he doesn’t do that much damage from the position, mostly just staying dominant while scoring a few points. The 38-year old also works good takedowns against the cage, and he possesses a brutal ground and pound attack, mixing vicious elbows with devastating punches. When the UFC veteran has his back against the cage, he is good at finding his underhooks and reversing positions, ultimately ending up in control of his opponents. He has good submission defense, as well, not to mention solid takedown defense. Also, when taken down, he is very good at finding his way back to his feet. Kongo has nice leg kicks, and works a solid uppercut. He has good striking defense, but a poor chin that has been the root cause of his last two losses, which resulted in worrisome knockouts. His chin used to be pretty good, but it has certainly diminished with age. The Frencmhan has a nice 1-2 combination he likes to use, and for a 38 year old heavyweight, he has great cardio, so I expect him to be ready to go a full 25 minutes against the Russian, should the fight go the distance. Vitaly Minakov (13-0 MMA, 4-0 Bellator) is an undefeated Russian heavyweight making his fifth appearance both in Bellator and the United States. All four of his previous appearances have resulted in TKO victories. The Russian is undoubtedly a finisher, as 12 of his 13 career wins have come inside the distance; eight by way of TKO/KO and four via submission. After securing the Bellator heavyweight title with a first round TKO win over fellow Russian Alexander Volkov, Minakov is now prepared for his first title defense, and arguably against the biggest challenge of his professional mixed martial arts career in Cheick Kongo. The Russian is a very strong and very dangerous mixed martial artist. He has a good chin and posseses one-punch knockout power. He has good head movement, and his defense is impressive both on the feet and on the mat. The 29-year old has good transitions, is great with submissions, and is generally smart with his top game and ground-and-pound. Minakov is a black belt in judo; he takes opponents for a ride and slams them down in beautiful fashion. He has a solid base and is hard to take down. He isn’t afraid to go to the ground, though, since he seems to be as comfortable there as he is on the feet. He also works excellent reversals on the mat, often finding himself in top position, from which he is very dominant. The Russian works a powerful ground and pound attack, which he used to secure his Bellator heavyweight title. The Sambo champion has great wrestling and excellent submissions. He is aggressive on the feet, pushing forward and always looking to put his opponents away. He loves to implement his knees in his striking attack, and does a lot of damage with them. While he has gone three rounds just once in his professional mixed martial arts career and never seen a fourth round, I expect the Russian heavyweights’ cardio to be in top shape. Gabe’s Prediction: I think the Russian is going to prove to be too much for Kongo, and by making quick work of the UFC veteran, he will continue to rise in the MMA heavyweight rankings. Minakov is a beast of a heavyweight, and sooner rather than later, I would really love to see him in the UFC. Gabe’s Call: Vitaly Minakov by KO (strikes, 1:01 round 1) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Minakov (-280) parlayed with Koreshkov (-420) for -147 5u to win 3.4u

Written by Gabe Killian

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