Cheick Kongo has won eight fights in a row heading into his heavyweight title opportunity against Ryan Bader at Bellator 226, yet has stayed relatively under the radar. That certainly changed as the two headliners for Saturday night’s event went face-to-face for the final time.
At the Bellator 226 ceremonial weigh-ins on Friday evening in San Jose, the champion and challenger stared each other down on stage and it looked pretty intense. Moments later, Kongo gave Bader a two-handed shove to the chest as shown in the video below, courtesy of Bellator MMA’s Twitter page.
Our #Bellator226 heavyweight main event weigh-in was very “hands-on”.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 7, 2019
Cheick Kongo steps into the cage for the 43rd time in his professional career as he looks to become the Bellator heavyweight champion for the first time. The 44-year-old hasn’t tasted defeat in over four years and has defeated the likes of Alexander Volkov, Javy Ayala, Timothy Johnson and Vitaly Minakov during his impressive winning streak. A former UFC title challenger, Kongo has had a shot at the Bellator heavyweight belt in 2014, losing to Minakov via unanimous decision at Bellator 115.
Ryan Bader has been on an absolute tear since departing from the UFC, winning all five of his Bellator bouts and capturing both the organizational heavyweight and light heavyweight championships in the process. “Darth” Bader captured the 205-pound title in his very first Bellator appearance at Bellator NYC, defeating Phil Davis via split decision in June 2017. Since then, the 36-year old has successfully defended the title against Linton Vassell, before winning the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, and the title, with wins over Muhammed Lawal, Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emilianenko.
Bellator 226 will take place at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. and will feature four opening round matchups in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. Former champion Daniel Straus will face Derek Campos in the co-main event, while another former champion, Pat Curran will face a rising star in the unbeaten Adam Borics. Other opening round matchups include Sam Sicilia taking on Pedro Carvalho, and Emmanuel Sanchez taking on surging prospect Tywan Claxton.
Who takes the main event for the Bellator heavyweight title, Ryan Bader or Cheick Kongo?