Cheick Kongo and Sergei Kharitonov took four decades of MMA experience into the cage at Bellator 265 on Friday.
The heavyweight veterans, 46 and 41 years young, respectively, remained two of the hardest hitting, most dangerous big men in the promotion. But with father time closing in, a win was crucial for both fighters.
The opening minutes of Friday’s main event played out on the feet, with Kharitonov getting his jab going early. Kongo showed solid footwork, and rather than tying up with the Russian, opted to box with him. Eventually, Kongo found his range, and began landing his jab, his sizeable reach advantage serving him well. Kharitonov did manage to keep Kongo’s back to the fence a fair bit, but “The Darkness” was able to circle out of harm’s way.
The entire opening round played out this way, until Kharitonov caught Kongo in the final thirty seconds or so. Moments later, Kongo appeared to suffer a toe poke; Kongo turned and walked away, but no foul was called and the action was not stopped by the ref. That allowed Kharitonov to rush in, looking for a surprise KO, but the buzzer hit before the knockout did.
The stand-up battle continued in the second, until Kongo finally opted to change levels a minute in. Kharitonov stuffed the attempt, and again backed Kongo up. The toe poke from the opening round seemed to be bothering Kongo, who appeared tentative at times in the second. Still, he pressed on, firing a knee, and landing his left hand.
With ninety seconds remaining, Kongo caught the Russian with a punch, then tried for a bodylock takedown. When that didn’t work, Kongo went to work in the clinch with knees, before finally getting the hulking Kharitonov down. Kongo began dropping blows from half guard, then moved to mount. Kharitonov nearly gave up his back, and before long, Kongo had a choke in. In what was a common occurrence at Bellator 265, the tap was a buzzer beater, coming just before the end of the frame.
In the end, Cheick Kongo walks away with win number 31, and is back in the mix in Bellator’s heavyweight division.
Official Result: Cheick Kongo def. Sergei Kharitonov by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2, 4:59