Prior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at a main card at Bellator 172 in San Jose, California as Cheick Kongo takes on Oli Thompson. Cheick Kongo (Record: 25-10, -265 Favorite) The longtime heavyweight and one of France’s top MMA fighters, Kongo was a mainstay in the UFC prior to his move to Bellator in 2013. He’s fought nine times in Bellator, amassing a 7-2 record. He’s won his last three fights in the promotion — all by decision. Kongo is as well-rounded a stand-up fighter as there is in the heavyweight division. He holds black belts in karate and kendo plus a brown belt in penkat silat. He also holds a professional kickboxing record of 21-2. Kongo has been fighting in MMA for over 15 years, with the majority of that career in the UFC and Bellator. He’s fought a who’s who of the division, including Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez. Even at his advanced age (41), he’s shown that he can beat solid fighters. He certainly doesn’t have the massive knockout power that some of his opponents have, but he’s very capable of using his strength to control opponents, pushing them against the cage and working in tight spaces. Over the years, he’s improved his wrestling game quite a bit and has begun using it quite a bit in his more recent fights. His ability to take opponents to the mat and working ground-and-pound has helped extend his career. Oli Thompson (Record: 17-9, +245 Underdog) A 37-year-old Englishman, Thompson first found his way into strongman competitions before moving over to mixed martial arts. Fighting professionally since 2009, Thompson has fought mainly across Europe but also has appeared in Asia as well as in the United States. Thompson lost his Bellator debut to Matt Mitrione in July 2016. His fight with Kongo will be his second fight in the promotion. Thompson’s ability in the cage starts and finishes with his hands. He’s good in short bursts with his punches. He does a decent job of shortening distant and landing shots within range. Due to his muscularity, conditioning is a major issue for him, and he tends to slow down significantly in his fights. If he keeps a fight standing, he’s able to compete for good portions of a fight. However, his opponent can really take over with decent pace and volume midway to late in bouts. On the ground, he’s at a major disadvantage. He simply never developed the grappling skill set to round out his abilities. Matchup Kongo will be returning to the Bellator cage for the 10th time when he faces Thompson. This is a great opportunity for Kongo to earn his eighth win in Bellator. Thompson should have some chances early, but look for Kongo to use his length and push this fight against the cage when he has the opportunity. Kongo is at his best working in strikes against the cage and then working in takedowns when he senses a vulnerability. On the ground, Kongo has a massive advantage. Look for Kongo to get Thompson on the ground, flatten him out and wail away with ground-and-pound until the referee stops the fight. Kongo is just too good and durable for Thompson. Kongo is one of the best parlay legs this weekend at -265. At +159, the Kongo inside the distance prop is also worth consideration.
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