Former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov stepped into the cage for the first time in over two years at Bellator 269.
Minakov, whose only pro loss to that point had come against Cheick Kongo earlier in his Bellator run, was paired up with Said Sowma in the co-main event of the Moscow card. On the outside looking in thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and visa issues, a statement win by Minakov would nonetheless boost him right back up to the top of the heavyweight division.
Sowma had other plans. And a smart game plan that relied heavily on leg kicks.
Minakov and Sowma took a bit to get going Saturday, with Sowma a self-professed “slow starter” and Minakov coming off a two-year layoff. But the former champ would get the fight to the ground midway through the opening round. From there, he was in the driver’s seat.
In the second, things stayed on the feet. Sowma often found himself with his back to the fence, circling out of the way as Minakov pressed the attack. Minakov threw kicks to the body; Sowma, meanwhile, was utilizing a calf kick that was giving the Russian trouble. On occasion, he nearly took Minakov’s legs out from under him, and by the end of the round, the ex-champ’s lead leg was showing some nasty red welts.
In the third, Minakov again marched forward. Sowma again circled out of harm’s way. His mobility was far better, and again, he connected with a low kick to Minakov’s leg that threw the Russian off-balance. Minakov would connect with a punch along the fence before Sowma escaped. With his leg compromised, however, Minakov struggled to close the distance. He also appeared to have injured his finger, and the ref noticed almost immediately. With the digit either broken or dislocated, the bout was waved off, while the Russian could be seen snapping his finger back into place.
Official Result: Said Sowma def. Vitaly Minakov by TKO (injury), Round 3, 3:08