Cheick Kongo Has Been An Underrated Free Agent Signing By Bellator

By Adam Martin

When you think of the free agent fighters who migrated from the UFC to Bellator MMA, the names that come to mind are Gegard Mousasi, Rory MacDonald, and Ryan Bader. All three have become champions in Bellator, and all three have made the UFC look foolish for letting them go. But while Bellator has made a number of great signings in recent years, one that really went under the radar was the signing of heavyweight Cheick Kongo. And of all the fighters Bellator signed away from the UFC, Kongo has perhaps been the most underappreciated.

Since joining Bellator in 2013, Kongo has gone a terrific 11-2 overall, including his current seven-fight win streak. He has beaten the likes of Alexander Volkov, Javy Ayala, and Augusto Sakai, and his only losses have come in bouts against Muhammed Lawal and Vitaly Minakov, both of which he dropped by decision. Kongo was cut from the UFC following a KO loss to Roy Nelson, and at that point everyone thought he was washed up, but here we are in 2018 and the 43-year-old Kongo is looking better than ever. His latest win, a KO over Timothy Johnson at Bellator 208, showed he still has a ton left in the tank, as he went out there and beat a guy who was just ranked top-15 in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Despite Kongo’s amazing record in Bellator — he has the most wins of any ex-UFC fighter in Bellator — he was not included in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. And to be fair to Bellator, Kongo had won five fights in a row by decision, so the promotion likely expected more of the same. But here Kongo is, after being snubbed by Bellator, turning himself into a knockout artist and finishing opponents in brutal fashion.

Now we don’t know if Bellator plans to employ an alternate for its Heavyweight Grand Prix finals, but given that Nelson was just brutally KO’d by Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 207, Kongo is the most logical choice for that role. It would make a lot of sense for Bellator to book him on the same card as the bout between Bader and Fedor Emelianenko, just in case.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting this win streak from Cheick Kongo in Bellator, especially at this late stage of his career. After the loss to Nelson I figured what then-UFC matchmaker Joe Silva saw was a declining veteran who wasn’t going to be worth a big contract. And for a while there, Kongo wasn’t very impressive in the new promotion. But he seems to have found his second wind now and looks better than he has in years. Kongo has always been an athletic freak with knockout power, but he was a guy who very much underachieved. Now in his forties, he looks to be better than ever. Bellator quietly made a tremendous signing with Kongo back in 2013, and five years later, it’s all paying off.

Bellator 208

Cheick Kongo vs. Timothy Johnson: Cheick Kongo def. Timothy Johnson via KO (punches) at 1:08 of Round 1.

Bellator 208: Fedor vs. Sonnen took place October 13, 2018 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.

Click HERE for more Bellator 208 Post-Fight Analysis

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