Russian heavyweight Vitaly Minakov loses undefeated record with controversial loss to Cheick Kongo

Russian heavyweight Vitaly Minakov loses undefeated record with controversial loss to Cheick Kongo
French contender Cheick Kongo handed Vitaly Minakov the first defeat of his MMA career with a controversial unanimous decision in their heavyweight title eliminator at Bellator 216.

The two European heavyweights went toe-to-toe in a slow-paced rematch on the main card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The pair previously met inside the Bellator cage back in April 2014, when Minakov claimed a unanimous decision victory.

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However, Kongo turned the tables by claiming the win after a grueling three-round battle that saw all three judges award the contest to the Frenchman.

Minakov suffered a painful low blow mid-way through the opening round, but recovered after a brief injury timeout, and proceeded to force Kongo onto the back foot.

After a second round that lacked any real action, Minakov turned to his grappling in the third and final frame, taking the towering Frenchman to the canvas, where he briefly looked to lock up a choke, but the Russian heavyweight was unable to force the tap.

Kongo rallied in the final seconds with a final flurry of strikes that stunned Minakov in what proved to be the most decisive action of the contest.

Many believed it was too little, too late for the Frenchman, but the judges saw it otherwise.

One judge gave Kongo all three rounds for a 30-27 score, with the other two scoring it 29-28. But the verdict produced surprised reactions from Bellator commentators Mauro Ranallo and John McCarthy, and prompted fight analyst and Bellator star Chael Sonnen to state that he believed Minakov to have won the fight by two rounds to one.

It also drew a message of support from UFC heavyweight Alexey Oleynik, who tweeted: "Minakov was not in the best condition, made many mistakes and was tired. But he definitely didn't lose the f...cking fight."

Minakov was bidding to recapture the Bellator heavyweight title that he had never lost inside the cage, after being stripped of the title following his switch from Bellator MMA to Russian-based organization Fight Nights Global in 2015.

Minakov added seven more wins to his undefeated record – all by stoppage – before rejoining Bellator ahead of Saturday night's title eliminator.

However, his decision loss to Kongo saw him lose his undefeated record, and his chance at an immediate shot at current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.

That opportunity now passes to Kongo, who will face Bader inside the Bellator cage later this year.

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