Bellator MMA's Season 10 rolls on this Friday night (April 4, 2014) live from Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada.
Bellator 115 "Prelims" under card mixed martial arts (MMA) matches will stream online on SpikeTV.com, beginning at 7 p.m ET, followed by the televised main card starting at 9 p.m ET, also on Spike TV.
In the main event, Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov will attempt to defend his 265-pound title against longtime MMA mainstay Cheick Kongo.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) import, Kongo, has undergone something of a career resurgence in Bellator, notching up two impressive wins in succession to capture the season nine tournament crown.
In order to keep his win streak alive, however, he will have to take the Bellator heavyweight title from the undefeated knockout artist Minakov. With finishes in 12 of his 13 professional fights, Minakov provides a stiff test for the career journeyman Kongo.
In addition to the heavyweight title bout, the semifinal round of the welterweight tournament will be contested on Friday night, featuring Andrey Koreshkov taking onSam Oropeza. Bellator 115 also features Dan Cramer versus Jeremy Kimball in a middleweight tournament semifinal bout.
Check out our full preview and predictions below.
265 pound title fight: Vitaly Minakov vs. Cheik Kongo
Do you like getting drunk while watching fights? If so, and you have a high enough tolerance that you won't pass out right away, may I suggest playing the "Jimmy Smith and Sean Wheelock Put Over the Likelihood the Main Event Ends in a Finish" drinking game? The rules are simple: every time the Bellator announcers say something like, "I don't think we'll need the judges for this one" in reference to Minakov vs. Kongo, take a shot of your booze of choice, or if you're like me and can't stand hard liquor, shotgun a beer.
Then again, on second thought, you'd better not take a drink whenever you hear the Bellator announce team use the word "finish" in conjunction with this fight. After all, I wouldn't want to be sued for making a suggestion that led to someone getting alcohol poisoning.
Simply put, Minakov, who has only gone to decision once over his 13 MMA victories, is a natural born finisher. Although Kongo has left his fate in the hands of the judges with regularity in recent years, he also has quite a few victories by KO or TKO on his record. Put both of these hosses together, and someone's eyeballs are bound to make like the display on a slot machine and roll up in the back of said fighter's head before this one is done.
So who is it going to be?
Kongo may have the edge in experience with 30 pro MMA fights to Minakov's 13, but that's the only area where the Frenchman has a possible advantage over his Russian opponent. What's more, considering the mileage all those battles have left on the 38 year old Kongo's body, I'm not even certain one can cite his experience as an advantage.
Minakov is worlds better than Kongo when it comes to striking, but he's won his past seven fights via either TKO or KO. That's bad news for the still fairly one-dimensional striker Kongo.
Considering Minakov has never been knocked out, let alone tasted defeat, his chin must be considered in far better shape than Kongo's at this stage in the game. Kongo has been TKO'd twice in recent history, and he's doubtlessly taken countless shots in the gym over his 13 year MMA career. Which means, if Minakov can get his striking going against him, there's a very good chance Kongo finds himself bemusedly staring up at the arena lights and asking the referee what happened before these two get into the championship rounds.
As you've no doubt surmised by now, I'm going with Minakov in this one by KO or TKO. Kongo is a fighter on the downside of his career and Minakov looks to just be entering his prime. That story is usually as predictable as the outcome of a Disney movie.
Final prediction: Vitaly Minakov via second round technical knockout
170 pound tournament semifinal: Andrey Koreshkov vs. Sam Oropeza
Koreshekov vs. Oropeza is another battle that should please fans of decisive finishes. Oropeza has won by TKO in his past four outings. What's more, he's won by knockout or submission in all 11 of his professional victories.
Koreshekov has 9 wins by KO or TKO and 3 subs over the course of his 16 MMA wins. The Russian has tasted defeat just once, at the hands of former Bellator welterweight champion Ben Aksren, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of.
Look for Oropeza to press the action and for Koreshekov to attempt to pick his spots with counter strikes. If this fight bucks expectations and ends up going the distance, I could see Oropeza being the busier fighter and taking a decision.
However, if the bout does end in a finish, it's hard for me to see who has the edge. Both men are evenly matched when it comes to both grappling and standup, so this one feels like a coin flip for me.
That being said, I'm going to go with Koreshkov in this one. He looked like a beast in his lighting-quick disposal of former UFC fighter Nah-Shon Burrell back at Bellator 112, and other than a loss against Askren, he's never tasted defeat. Friday night won't be an exception for him.
Final prediction: Andrey Koreshkov via first round technical knockout
185 pound tournament semifinal: Dan Cramer vs. Jeremy Kimball
What does it say about the depth in Bellator's middleweight division, not to mention the validity of the promotion's tournament concept, when two fighters who are both coming off losses find themselves in the semifinal round of a four man tourney to compete for a 185 pound title shot?
Be that as it may, it's not Cramer and Kimball's fault they've been slotted in a position that highlights the relative absurdity of Bellator's tournament format, given the level of talent available to second tier MMA promotion in 2014.
The wild-maned, scraggly-bearded Kimball's bread and butter is the ground game, so expect him to go for the takedown with the single-minded determination of a panhandling drunk who relentlessly accosts passersby for "bus fare for a job interview across town."
As such, this could end up looking a lot like "Cosmo" Cramer's battle against Brian Rogers at Bellator 89. Rogers had a lot of luck getting Cramer to the mat, but once there Cramer proved adept at getting back to his feet and getting his striking game going.
No matter who ends up getting the advantage, I see this one turning into a clinch-heavy grappling battle. Let's go with Cramer though, since he showed in the Rogers fight he knows how to effectively deal with persistent wrestlers.
Final prediction: Dan Cramer via unanimous decision.
185 pound feature fight: Johnny Cisneros vs. Mikkel Parlo
This has all the makings of an old fashioned squash match. Cisneros is making his Bellator debut against Parlo, and based on the admittedly small amount of footage available of him online, he's not exactly a world beater.
Parlo isn't a fighter who is going to be confused for the next Anderson Silva himself, but he's a competent brawler who has a knack for making his fights ugly and blitzing his opponents.
My instincts tell me this fight was booked as a mismatch that would guarantee a fan-friendly first round knockout in the opening bout of the evening.
That's just what I think is going to happen. Parlo will steamroll Cisneros with punches in the early minutes of the fight, and eventually connect with something that puts "Tattooed Terror" on dream street.
Final prediction: Mikkel Parlo via first round knockout
That's a wrap folks.
Be sure to check us out Friday night (April 4, 2014) for Bellator 115 results, play by play, and LIVE fight coverage for "Minakov vs. Kongo" right here on MMAMania.com.
See you then!