Bellator 115 Fight Breakdown: Vitaly Minakov (-280) vs. Cheick Kongo (+240)

Cheick Kongo The main event of Bellator 115 is a five-round title fight between Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov and top contender Cheick Kongo. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Minakov as a -280 favorite (bet $280 to win $100) while Kongo is a +240 underdog (bet $100 to win $160). MMA oddsmaker originally opened up Minakov at -285 and Kongo at +205, and there has been back-and-forth action so far as the line has tightened up. It’s a heavyweight fight and anything can happen, but I’m surprised Minakov hasn’t been bet up, as I’m picking the Russian to retain the title. Here’s why. Minakov (13-0) is the Bellator heavyweight champion and is undefeated at 4-0 while fighting in Bellator. Just 29 years old, Minakov has won 12 of his 13 victories via stoppage including knockout wins over his last six outings. And while his level of competition hasn’t been particularly great, he does have some decent wins on his resume over Alexander Volkov, Ryan Martinez, Fabiano Scherner, and Eddie Sanchez. Sure, those aren’t the cream of the crop of MMA’s heavyweights, but consider that Volkov hasn’t got the opportunity to fight the ‘name’ heavyweights of the UFC yet. And he’s destroyed all of them. With his combination of size, strength, knockout power, and a grappling background, Minakov is one of the top heavyweights out there not in the UFC and a win over Kongo this weekend would help build his popularity. Kongo (20-8-2) was cut by the UFC last year but Bellator picked him up and he’s been great so far in the promotion, going 2-0 with two dominant over Mark Godbeer and Peter Graham. The 38-year-old Kongo is a very strong heavyweight with good knockout power as well as Greco-Roman wrestling, and he also has tons of experience against top-flight competition. However, he is really getting up there in age and he’s suffered some brutal knockout losses over the last few years. While Kongo’s losses have only come against strong competition, the way he’s lost is scary going forward, especially when he fights a knockout artist like Minakov. Although Kongo is a good fighter, he’s arguably on the downside of his career and in this fight against a younger, fresher fighter, it makes sense he enters as a big dog. Although Kongo has fought far superior competition, I believe Minakov is the superior athlete at this point of each fighter’s career and I think he has enough power in his fists to knock Kongo out and retain the Bellator heavyweight championship. I’m surprised the line on Minakov isn’t higher than -280, to be honest, so I see some value in it as a parlay piece. I’ve seen a lot of people I respect picking Kongo to win this fight but I just don’t think a gameplan of pushing Minakov against the fence is going to work, and I don’t think he’ll knock him out either, whereas I think Minakov has multiple routes to victory. So I do like the Russian here, although I did not like how he looked at weigh-ins. The total has been set at 1.5 rounds and each side is a Pick ’em. I personally lean towards the under here, but in a five-round fight I don’t think it’s worth playing.

Written by Adam Martin.

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