Bellator FC released the lineup for their season 9 Heavyweight tournament, set to kick off October 4th in Visalia, California at Bellator 102. The tournament includes, two resent signings, UFC veterans Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson, as they take on Mark Godbeer and Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz respectively. Normally, signing the UFC’s discarded fighters is not the best way to build a talent pool, however Bellator’s heavyweight division is so bereft of talent that the influx of two professionals like Kongo and Johnson will at least create an opponent for current Bellator Champion Alexander Volkov.
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Kongo is matched up against Mark Godbeer. Godbeer is 8-1 against very low comparative level of competition to Kongo, so look for Kongo to be a big favorite at the sport books.
The risk with signing Kongo, who though athletically and physically gifted is 38 years old, is that Kongo will fight safe and boring like h ehas in his recent UFC fights. When he opens up he has gotten caught and KO’d or nearly KO’d, so he has become more methodical. Regardless, he has a lot of advantages over Godbeer and should win the match.
What you see is what you get with Lavar Johnson as well. Johnson may be more at risk than Kongo, as his opponent is 6’7 and may cause some match up issues, however a comparison of their resumes reveals the same thing as in the previous fight – the UFC veteran has a much more impressive resume and it is almost impossible to not favor him.
This leaves a likely final of Lavar Johnson and Cheick Kongo, with the winner earning a title shot against the Russian Volkov, who is sitting on idle waiting for an opponent to develop under the failed Bellator tournament system. Johnson will KO Kongo if Kongo isnt careful. Kongo is likely the more skilled overall stand up fighter of the two, but his tendency to hold back could be a detriment against a fighter like Johnson, who knows his only chance to win the fight lies in his hands.
Kongo against the Russian? That is what it is looking like for Bellator’s heavyweight class.