Cheick Kongo has not posted consecutive wins in more than two years. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Cheick Kongo finds himself one step shy of challenging for the major mixed martial arts title that eluded him during his successful seven-year run in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Kongo will collide with Australian kickboxer Peter Graham in the Bellator MMA Season 9 heavyweight tournament final at Bellator 107 on Friday at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. To the winner goes a six-figure payday and coveted shot at the Bellator heavyweight crown currently held by Alexander Volkov.
A replacement for the injured Vinicius Kappke de Queiroz, Graham made his promotional debut at Bellator 104 in October, when he captured a unanimous verdict over Eric Prindle at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “The Chief” holds a 57-11 record as a professional kickboxer, with wins over 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt and 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix finalist Badr Hari. Graham, 38, will enter the cage on the strength of an eight-fight winning streak, which includes a December 2010 technical knockout victory over Aleksander Emelianenko.
Kongo punched his ticket to the tournament final at Bellator 102 in October, when he stopped Mark Godbeer with second-round knees and punches at the Visalia Convention Center in Visalia, Calif. The 38-year-old Frenchman has delivered more than half (11) of his 19 professional victories by knockout or technical knockout. Wins over 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic, Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative Shawn Jordan and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 alum Matt Mitrione anchor the Kongo resume.
With the Kongo-Graham tournament final as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding Bellator 107:
FACT 1: Joe Warren defeated David Bedinadze for the gold medal at the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships in Guangzhao, China. Bedinadze won gold at the world championships a year later and represented Georgia at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
FACT 2: Travis Marx was born in Roosevelt, Utah, a small, 5.2-square-mile city of a little more than 6,000 people in the northeaster portion of the Beehive State.
FACT 3: Danish import Mikkel Parlo won his first nine bouts as a professional before a decision loss to decorated sambo practitioner Sultan Aliev in February.
FACT 4: All but one of Brennan Ward’s nine career fights has ended with a finish, including his only defeat -- a 15-second armbar-induced submission to Aaron Johnson at Bellator 89.
FACT 5: German prospect Jonas Billstein debuted on Nov. 7, 2009, a little less than four months after his 18th birthday.
FACT 6: Unbeaten lightweight Mike Mucitelli has finished all five of his wins inside one round.
FACT 7: EliteXC alum James Edson Berto is the brother of former IBF and WBC welterweight boxing champion Andre Berto.
FACT 8: Bellator Season 4 lightweight finalist Patricky Freire has not won a fight since he needed less than a minute to put away UFC veteran Kurt Pellegrino at Bellator 59 some two years ago. Losses to Lloyd Woodard, Eddie Alvarez and Derek Anderson have followed.
FACT 9: Martin Stapleton was a quarterfinalist on Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series but has yet to appear inside the UFC’s Octagon.
FACT 10: Bellator has held nine other events in the state of Oklahoma: Bellator 96, Bellator 86, Bellator 53, Bellator 43, Bellator 42, Bellator 40, Bellator 37, Bellator 4 and Bellator 3.