As he barrels towards his 41st birthday, heavyweight Cheick Kongo still finds himself headlining major mixed martial arts shows.
The Frenchman will meet Team Nogueira’s Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz in the Bellator 150 main event on Friday at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. They are to serve as replacements for the original marquee attraction, a rematch between bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao and Nova Uniao’s Andre Dantas. An unspecified illness forced Galvao to withdraw and shoved the heavyweights onto center stage.
Kongo has compiled a 5-2 mark since touching down in Bellator MMA in 2013, losing only to former Strikeforce champion Muhammad Lawal and reigning Bellator titleholder Vitaly Minakov, both by decision. The Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran last appeared at Bellator 139 on June 26, when he captured a three-round unanimous verdict over Alexander Volkov. Other victories over Shawn Jordan, Matt Mitrione, Paul Buentello and 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic bolster the Kongo resume.
In Queiroz, he draws a dangerous finisher. The 32-year-old Brazilian has secured all eight of his wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission, six of them inside one round. Queiroz last fought at Bellator 143 on Sept. 25, when he submitted Ewerton Teixeira with a second-round arm-triangle choke at the State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.
With the Kongo-Queiroz battle now atop the lineup, here is what to watch for at Bellator 150:
Win or lose, David Rickels has generally been must-see television.
Known for whacky entrances Fred Flintstone might consider pleasing, “The Caveman” finds himself on the rebound following a technical knockout loss to former lightweight champion Michael Chandler in their November rematch. The 27-year-old Derby, Kansas, native will take on Titan Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance veteran Bobby Cooper in the co-main event. The club-toting Rickels was the Bellator Season 8 lightweight tournament winner and owns victories over Davi Ramos, Saad Awad and Lloyd Woodard.
Cooper has alternated wins and losses in each of his past four outings. He last competed at Bellator 139 in June, when he eked out a split decision over Pablo Villaseca.
Lena Ovchynnikova has the looks and skills necessary to become a star in Bellator’s fledging women’s flyweight division.
The Ukrainian kickboxer and muay Thai stylist will make her organizational debut on the main card, as she confronts Rebecca Ruth in a three-round fight at 125 pounds. Ovchynnikova has recorded wins in two of her last three fights but has not competed in MMA since she submitted Svetlana Gotsyk under the World Mixed Martial Arts Federation banner in October 2014. Though she has a standup pedigree, upon which to draw, the 28-year-old “Hunter” has secured eight of her 10 professional victories by submission: six via armbar and one each by guillotine choke and rear-naked choke.
The once-beaten Ruth will ride a three-fight winning streak into the cage. A late bloomer at age 37, she suffered her lone setback in October 2014, when she wound up on the wrong side of a split decision against Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger.
Hawaiian Crunch Time
Kendall Grove may never reach the heights he once believed he would, but “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner continues to plug along at what has been a largely successful career.
Next up for the 6-foot-6 Hawaiian middleweight: a date with onetime Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Francisco France. Grove has not yet established any serious consistency in Bellator, having gone 3-2 in his first five bouts. The 33-year-old UFC washout last fought at Bellator 143 in September, when he put away Joey Beltran with third-round punches. Grove boasts 16 finishes among his 22 professional victories, with a list of victims that includes Alan Belcher, former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Joe Riggs and onetime Bellator titleholder Christian M’Pumbu.
France has not lost a fight in almost five years. The 33-year-old Power MMA Team rep recorded his fifth consecutive victory at Bellator 146 on Nov. 20, as he submitted Ben Reiter with a second-round rear-naked choke.
Prospects collide when the undefeated Gaston Reyno squares off with Chuka Willis inside a Bellator featherweight division starved for new blood.
Reyno started his career with a pair of no-contests but has since pieced together a five-fight winning streak. None of his five opponents survived the first round. The 29-year-old Uruguay native last appeared at a Cage Promotions event in October, when he dispatched Yohance Flager with a rear-naked choke in a little more than three minutes.
Willis, who trains out of an American Top Team affiliate, will enter his promotional debut on the strength of back-to-back victories. Willis has not fought since he wiped out John Milledge in 11 seconds at a Phoenix Fighting Challenge show on Dec. 11.