Cheick Kongo had just enough in the tank.
The 40-year-old Frenchman won for the sixth time in eight appearances, as he escaped with a split decision over Kings MMA export Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz in the Bellator 150 headliner on Friday at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 for Kongo, 29-28 for Queiroz.
Low kicks were Kongo’s most effective weapon, as he chewed up the inside and outside of the Brazilian’s legs and used them to keep him pinned on the perimeter. Queiroz (8-4, 3-2 Bellator) grew more and more tentative with his standup as the fight progressed, eating punches upstairs and kicks to the legs and body. The 6-foot-7 “Spartan” secured takedowns in the second and third round but failed to consolidate them with damage from the top. Queiroz missed out on a golden opportunity with roughly 1:30 left in the bout, as he dropped Kongo (24-10-2, 6-2 Bellator) with a counter right hook in the center of the cage. However, he wandered into Kongo’s guard, allowing him to recover and avoid further damage.
The defeat halted a modest two-fight winning streak for Queiroz.
Related » Bellator 150 Round-by-Round Scoring
In the lightweight co-main event, Bellator Season 8 tournament winner David Rickels took care of Bobby Cooper with a first-round knee strike to the body and follow-up punches. Now training out of the Elevation Fight Team outfit in Colorado, Rickels (17-4, 11-4 Bellator) finished it 3:49 into round one.
Cooper (12-6, 3-1 Bellator) kept “The Caveman” at bay for a time with leg kicks and straight punches. However, Rickels drew him into close-quarters combat, doubled over the Titan Fighting Championship vet with a knee to the body and swarmed with punches, hammerfists and elbows. Battered, bloodied and still short-circuited by the body shot, Cooper could not withstand the onslaught.
Meanwhile, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Kendall Grove knocked out former Resurrection Fighting Alliance titleholder Francisco France with an overhand right and follow-up punches in the second round of their middleweight showcase. Grove (23-15, 4-2 Bellator) brought it to a close 35 seconds into round two.
France (13-4-1, 1-1 Bellator) started strong with crackling leg kicks and a punishing clinch, a position from which he attacked the Hawaiian with knees, foot stomps and short punches. It was not enough. Early in the second round, Grove pushed him to the fence, sent him crashing to the canvas with an overhand right and then punched him unconscious on the ground.
The loss was France’s first since July 23, 2011 and snapped his seven-fight unbeaten streak.
Elsewhere, World Series of Fighting veteran Chuka Willis extended his current winning streak to three fights with a unanimous verdict against the previously unbeaten Gaston Reyno in their featured confrontation at 145 pounds. Willis (7-2, 1-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 nods.
Reyno (5-1, 1-1 Bellator) enjoyed some early success -- he scored with a front kick to the face and threatened with a guillotine choke in the first round -- but ran aground soon after. Willis floored him with an overhand right in the second, lured the Uruguay native into the clinch and grinded him into figurative dust. Reyno surrendered a takedown midway through round three, and his last-second bid for a guillotine went for naught.
Finally, Resurrection Fighting Alliance alum Rebecca Ruth leaned on thudding power punches, timely takedowns and a smothering top game in capturing a unanimous decision over Lena Ovchynnikova in three-round women’s flyweight showcase. All three cageside judges sided with Ruth (6-1, 1-0 Bellator): 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28.
Outside of a head-and-arm throw in the first round and a multi-punch burst in the third, Ovchynnikova (10-4, 0-1 Bellator) was surprisingly ineffective. Ruth bullied her way into close quarters with no regard for the Ukrainian’s power. She sat down Ovchynnikova with a crisp straight right and threatened her with a late armbar in the second round before executing a pair of takedowns in the third.
Ruth, 37, has rattled off four straight wins.
In preliminary action, undefeated American Kickboxing Academy prospect Andre Fialho (6-0, 1-0 Bellator) put away Manny Meraz (7-2, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 29 seconds into the first round of their welterweight encounter; Kyle Noblitt (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) dispatched David Hammons (1-2, 0-1 Bellator) with ground-and-pound 45 seconds into round one of their heavyweight pairing; Henry Lindsay (5-5, 1-0 Bellator) wiped out Marcio Navarro (14-12, 2-3 Bellator) with a left hook and follow-up punches 2:30 into the first round of their lightweight encounter; Chris Harris (5-0, 1-0 Bellator) claimed a unanimous verdict over Julian Marquez (2-1, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round firefight at 185 pounds, earning 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks on the scorecards; Gregory Babene (17-11, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Brandon Farran (12-11, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 3:37 into the first round of their catchweight clash at 187 pounds; and Thai Clark (6-0, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Deron Carlis (4-2, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight battle, drawing 29-28 scores from all three judges.