Can Vitaly Minakov pass his latest test? | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Vitaly Minakov has become a full-fledged brute.
The undefeated Russian will defend his Bellator MMA heavyweight title against onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship mainstay Cheick Kongo in the Bellator 115 main event on Friday at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nev. A four-time world champion in sambo, the 29-year-old Minakov has dispatched his last seven opponents with strikes.
Minakov -- who has finished five different foes in less than a minute -- has not competed since he captured the heavyweight crown with a first-round technical knockout against fellow Russian Alexander Volkov at Bellator 108 in November. Since arriving in Bellator in 2012, the judo black belt has rattled off four straight wins, emerging as one of the world’s premier heavyweights and surfacing as a potential cornerstone for the promotion.
Kongo locked down his title shot by winning the Season 9 heavyweight tournament, as he dismissed Mark Godbeer with second-round knees and punches in the semifinals before ousting Australian kickboxer Peter Graham by unanimous decision in the final. The 38-year-old Frenchman put together a sustained run of success inside the UFC’s Octagon, including a victory over 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic. Kongo has won five of his past seven bouts, losing only to the rejuvenated Mark Hunt and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson.
With the Minakov-Kongo title bout on the marquee, here are 10 facts surrounding Bellator 115:
FACT 1: A protégé of Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, Andrey Koreshkov sports 11-, 41-, 60- and 86-second finishes among his 15 career victories.
FACT 2: Philadelphia Fight Factory export Sam Oropeza has never gone the distance in his 13-fight career, as all 11 of his wins and both of his losses have ended by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
FACT 3: American Top Team’s Dan Cramer reached “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 quarterfinals, where he was joined by Jesse Taylor, Dante Rivera, Amir Sadollah, Matt Brown, C.B. Dollaway, Cale Yarbrough and the man who eliminated him: Tim Credeur.
FACT 4: All four of Jeremy Kimball’s defeats have come by submission, three of them by rear-naked choke.
FACT 5: Switzerland’s Volkan Oezdemir has won all 10 of his professional fights, with nine first-round stoppages. However, the 10 men he has beaten -- Josh Lanier, David Round, Angelier Benjamin, Benyaich Mohamed, Mohamed Amidi, Bruno Farias Grancheux, Ronilson Mamute, Mamadou Cisse, Boubacar Balde and Martin Vath -- have combined for a 35-41 record.
FACT 6: Johnny Cisneros has spent his entire career inside the King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge promotions.
FACT 7: Danish middleweight Mikkel Parlo will serve as a replacement for former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Doug Marshall on the main card. Marshall, 37, was suspended over a positive test for a banned substance following his November loss to Shlemenko.
FACT 8: James Terry wrestled collegiately at Arizona State University.
FACT 9: Heavyweight Freddie Aquitania has trained at Team Alpha Male, the revered camp best known for lighter weight fighters like Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, Chad Mendes and T.J. Dillashaw.
FACT 10: The Reno Events Center plays host to the Reno Bighorns, an NBA Developmental Team affiliated with the Sacramento Kings.