Alexander Volkov (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Bellator 139: Kongo vs. Volkov Preview and Predictions

Bellator goes back-to-back with its second card of June a week after Bellator 138. Bellator 139 doesn’t have the star power of the previous card, or even a title fight, but it delivers a four-fight main card with knockout potential to the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kan.

The main event takes place in the heavyweight division with the former king of the big guys, Alexander Volkov. Volkov takes on former UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo, who looks to get a win this time around after a disappointing fight against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. With the heavyweight division in flux, both of these fighters could be looking to take a step in the right direction to get another shot at the belt.

The co-main event heads to the lightweight division with the entertaining David Rickels. Rickels takes on highly experienced MMA veteran John Alessio, who returns to the cage after more than a year on the sidelines.


The final two fights on the main card contain some of the bigger names on Bellator’s roster. In the middleweight division, kickboxing star Joe Schilling takes on Hisaki Kato. In the featherweight division, former featherweight champion Pat Curran looks to snap a two-fight losing streak when he goes up against Emmanuel Sanchez.

Bellator 139’s preliminary card begins at 7 p.m. ET on and The main card airs at 9 p.m. live on Spike.

HW: Alexander Volkov (24-5) vs. Cheick Kongo (22-10-2)

Cheick Kongo lost his last fight against Muhammed Lawal by split decision. I personally scored the fight 30-27 in favor of Lawal, who was able to control Kongo despite being the much smaller fighter. It was quite obvious that Kongo just had no answers for Lawal’s wrestling. Kongo is 4-2 in Bellator, but his biggest win is a submission of Lavar Johnson, who isn’t exactly known for his grappling prowess.

The 40-year-old Kongo hasn’t exactly shown up for his big-name match-ups in Bellator’s heavyweight division. In addition to the loss to Lawal, Kongo dropped his fight against Vitaly Minakov for the heavyweight title. Kongo had some trouble navigating past Minakov and arguably won two rounds at most in their fight.

Kongo will most likely look to slow this fight down on the ground. He fights smart against strikers and beats them by grinding them out on the mat. Surprisingly, he won’t be the bigger man in this contest. Instead, Volkov will enjoy a three-inch height advantage.

Volkov is going to look to keep this on the feet, where he has the superior striking advantage despite Kongo’s kickboxing background. Volkov, who tends to tower over his opponents, has bullied fighters with his striking and gives opponents trouble with his size.

On advantage for Kongo can be identified through a look at Volkov’s last fight against Tony Johnson. Johnson is about six inches shorter than Volkov, but he used his wrestling in that fight to steal the split decision from Volkov. Kongo needs to look for similar success via wrestling. If Kongo can press Volkov against the cage and get some takedowns, Volkov will fade. Furthermore, if Kongo can keep Volkov on his back, it takes away any size advantage that Volkov may enjoy. Volkov isn’t a threat to submit Kongo off his back, but he is a threat on the feet, where he has scored 17 knockouts.

Volkov is my pick in this fight. Kongo’s last fight against Lawal left a bad taste. He didn’t look like the fighter that had so much potential in the early days of his UFC tenure. Kongo won’t get knocked out by Volkov — his three knockout losses, which came against Roy Nelson, Gilbert Yvel and Mark Hunt, were all to really strong and powerful knockout fighters — but he will drop the decision to the Russian.

LW: David Rickels (16-3) vs. John Alessio (35-17)

John Alessio has been on the shelf for over a year now. He gets a stiff challenge in his return fight against David Rickels. Alessio snapped a bad skid with a win over Eric Wisely in his last fight. In his previous four outings, Alessio went 0-3 with one no-contest against some decent competition. His losses in that stretch came against Shane Roller, Mark Bocek and Will Brooks.

Alessio is certainly a very experienced fighter. He has fought a ton of good talent in his career in the UFC, the WEC and one appearance in Pride. Alessio is a dinosaur, as Rickels said (even though he’s historically wrong in his additional claim that cavemen fought dinosaurs). That isn’t a bad thing, however, as it gives Alessio the added experience of competing against some quality guys.

Rickels is a hard guy to beat. He fades into brawls and can take some tough shots. The only two guys to knock him out are Patricky Freire and Michael Chandler, both of whom have some significant power in their hands. Rickels can be expected to make this fight dirty for Alessio and push the veteran on the feet. The 26-year-old Rickels is also ridiculously strong and can grind on fighters to help make the brawls easier and turn them more in his favor.

Rickels is going to make this ugly. Really ugly. Alessio is going to need to slow the pace and avoid the brawl by bringing this to the ground, but Rickels should stop the takedowns and get a second-round knockout or take a nasty decision victory.

FW: Pat Curran (20-7) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (10-1)

After losing his last two fights, former Bellator champ Pat Curran gets a good fight here against Emmanuel Sanchez, a fighter who isn’t near the top of the featherweight division in Bellator.

Curran is 2-3 in his last five fights. Granted, the losses in that stretch come against good competition in Daniel Straus, Daniel Weichel and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Curran was once one of the best fighters in the featherweight division outside of the UFC and was seen as a fighter who could possibly be a top-10 fighter if he made the move to the world’s biggest MMA promotion.

Curran has been wildly different in his last few fights, though. However, he is still just 27 years old and has some years left on his career. Curran is a very well-rounded fighter who can give any fighter fits on the feet or on the ground. In this fight, Curran could win by various means. There isn’t one clear path to victory for him. He could take this fight to the ground and use his wrestling to control from the top and submit Sanchez. He could also look to stay on the feet and try to close the distance against Sanchez, who has a three-inch reach advantage over Curran.

Sanchez is getting a step up in competition against Curran, who is by far the best fighter that the 24-year-old prospect has ever faced. Sanchez, a Roufusport fighter, can be expected to have a good game plan going into this contest. However, a majority of Sanchez’s wins come by submission, and Curran is not likely to fall victim to a submission.

Curran will outpoint Sanchez and take the fight to the mat to get some points en route to claiming a unanimous decision.

MW: Joe Schilling (2-4) vs. Hisaki Kato (4-1)

The breakdown for this middleweight clash between Joe Schilling and Hisaki Kato is rather easy: Schilling either wins the fight on the feet or he loses on the ground.

Schilling’s kickboxing background makes him very one dimensional in an MMA setting, as seen in his last fight with Rafael Carvalho. Carvalho was able to neutralize Schilling’s striking and control the fight against the cage and on the ground.

Schilling is a great kickboxer regardless of whether it’s in MMA or not. If given the distance and a chance to stand and trade, Schilling will make his opponent pay — just ask Melvin Manhoef. It’s dangerous to actually try to stand and outstrike Schilling. Actually, ludicrous may be an even better word. The only answer is to mix in some takedowns and make Schilling wary of going to the ground.

This is definitely a feeder fight for Schilling. Bellator seems to have learned from his last fight that it can’t put him in with a guy who can out-grapple him. Instead, the company is going to give Schilling interesting fights that play to his strengths. A Schilling fight on the card is useless for Bellator if he is going to get held down for three rounds and not have the ability to throw some kicks.

Kato fits the criteria for an ideal Schilling opponent perfectly. All of his fights have been settled within the distance. Only one of those fights has gone past the first round, and they have all ended in a knockout. Kato has fought primarily in Japan, though, and it’s difficult to pick in favor of fighters coming over from Asia — especially Japan — who are making their stateside debut.

Kato isn’t getting any favors for that U.S. debut. Schilling will end the Japanese fighter’s night with a first-round knockout.

Preliminary Card Predictions
Fight Prediction
FW: Bubba Jenkins (8-2) vs. Joe Wilk (18-10) Jenkins by unanimous decision
BW: Jeimeson Saudino (8-4) vs. Aaron Ely (4-2) Ely by unanimous decision
LW: Bobby Cooper (11-5) vs. Pablo Villaseca (9-0) Villaseca by second-round TKO
HW: Augusto Sakai (7-0) vs. Daniel Gallemore (4-2) Sakai by first-round TKO
Women’s FW: Iony Razafiarison (2-0) vs. Bryanna Fissori (1-0) Fissori by unanimous decision
HW: Alex Huddleston (5-1) vs. Javy Ayala (8-3) Ayala by second-round TKO
LW: Greg Scott (3-3) vs. Gaston Reyno (3-0) Reyno by unanimous decision
HW: Derek Bohl (6-3) vs. Frederick Brown (2-1) Bohl by first-round TKO
LW: Marcio Navarro (13-11) vs. Cody Carillo (8-11) Navarro by unanimous decision