Ryan Bader Opens as Sizable Favorite in Cheick Kongo Rematch

Bader Vs Kongo 2 Bellator MMA

  • Ryan Bader has opened as a sizable betting favorite against Cheick Kongo at Bellator 280.
  • Bader and Kongo fought in 2019 during the former’s first title defense but the bout ended in a no-contest after an accidental eye poke.
  • Bader defeated Valentin Moldavsky last January to set up a rematch with Kongo.

Sportsbooks are picking Ryan Bader to successfully defend the Bellator Heavyweight world title against Cheick Kongo next month.

Bader and Kongo will headline the promotion’s return to France at Bellator 280 on May 6th and according to the best MMA betting sites, the champion is the -285 betting favorite to retain his belt while the challenger is listed at +210 odds:

Bader Defeats Moldavsky to Set Up Kongo Rematch

Bader dug deep in his arsenal to defeat Valentin Moldavsky and retain the Bellator Heavyweight title via unanimous decision at Bellator 273 last January 29th. The victory set up a rematch with Kongo, who went up to the cage after the bout and had a ceremonial faceoff with his former nemesis.

The 38-year-old Bader won the Bellator heavyweight championship by knocking out Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214 in 2019. In his first title defense at Bellator 226, Bader faced Kongo but three minutes into their title fight, an accidental eye poke rendered Kongon unable to continue and the bout was declared a no-contest. Bader lost two of three light heavyweight bouts after that contest before returning to heavyweight in his last bout against Moldavsky.

This marks the first time in his last three bouts where Bader has opened as the betting favorite. The former NCAA Division I All-American from Arizona State University opened at +134 odds against Anderson and was also the +120 bottom dog in the opening lines against Moldavsky. Prior to those bouts, the only other time that Bader saw the plus money sign written next to his name was when he made his promotional debut against Phil Davis at +105 odds.

Kongo Submits Kharitonov

Meanwhile, Kongo is coming off a buzzer-beating submission win over Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 265 last August 20, 2021. In that bout, the 46-year-old Frenchman survived a sluggish first round and a slow second round start before finding Kharitonov’s back and locking in a rear-naked choke that made the Russian tap with one second left in the round.

That victory ended a two-fight winless streak for Kongo who figured in a no-contest with Bader and then lost via split decision to Timothy Johnson at Bellator Paris in October 2020. Prior to that, Kongo rose to the top of the Bellator heavyweight rankings with an impressive eight-bout winning streak which included wins over Alexander Volkov, Augusto Sakai, Oli Thompson, Vitaly Minakov, and Johnson.

Kongo will be the betting underdog for the fourth time in his last five bouts. The Frenchman was a heavy +450 bottom dog when he beat Minakov at Bellator 216 and a +105 betting underdog against Kharitonov the last time out. Kongo was also listed at +425 when he fought Bader the first time out.

Shane Acedera / Author

Shane grew up watching the Magic & Bird rivalry but ended up rooting for Detroit's Bad Boys team in the 1990s NBA. He loves to tell sports stories and has been writing about sports since high school. When Shane isn't busy jotting down his thoughts, he's just chillin' at home with his wife Rocelle and their two dogs named Horry and Fisher. He recently added a new family member, adopting a handsome retired K-9 named Ranger.

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