Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa predictions -- Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa: Fight card, odds, start time, live stream
Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa: Bader's expeditions to heavyweight have done wonders for his longevity. His power has translated up a weight class and he benefits from speed and cardio advantages over most of Bellator's big men. Speaking of longevity, you have to be impressed with Kongo, 46, and his ability to remain competitive against reasonable competition more than two decades into his pro career.
Bader has confirmed that his light heavyweight days are over and that is probably for the best. Kongo is a lean, mobile heavyweight, but Bader has the edge in most facets of the game where Kongo thrives. Kongo does have a seven-inch reach and two-inch height advantage, but the champion shouldn't have much trouble getting on the inside. Kudos to Kongo for what he has accomplished at this stage of his career but this is Bader's fight to lose. Pick: Bader via UD
The superhuman Yoel Romero makes his second appearance for Bellator against late replacement Alex Polizzi. Romero, like many before him, was stifled by Phil Davis when "The Soldier of God" debuted for the company in September. The once prolific finisher is winless dating back to 2018, but the allure of the Olympian's next-level athleticism persists.
Romero was originally scheduled to fight dynamic striker Melvin Manhoef. Polizzi stepped in for Manhoef, 45, as the kickboxing legend has lingering issues after allegedly fending off three burglars in March. What Polizzi lacks in name value, he makes up for in solid potential. The 10-1 fighter has only lost to Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix substitute Julius Anglickas, and has a win over former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho on his record.
Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa and Cheick Kongo are in search of a definitive ending to their series at Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa. Bader and Kongo met for the heavyweight championship at Bellator 226 in September 2019. An alleged eye poke in Round 1 brought the bout to a disappointing conclusion. Fast forward three years and the two fighters will compete under similar circumstances, albeit on another continent when they meet inside the Accor Arena in Paris on Friday.
Bader (29-7, 1 NC) has committed to heavyweight full time after splitting duties between the land of the giants and 205 pounds. Bader, the former two-division champion, has alternated wins and losses in his last four fights, but he is undefeated in all five of his heavyweight contests. He narrowly defeated interim champion Valentin Moldavsky in January, but may enter Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa with the mental edge over his challenger. Bader was firmly in control of Kongo for the short duration of their first meeting. The accidental eye poke that resulted in the only no-contest on either man's professional record was never spotted on camera. The prevailing theory suggests Bader's body blocked the cameras to a knuckle in the eye. There is a portion of viewers that believe Kongo faked the injury. Bader refuses to count out Kongo in the rematch and has trained to deliver a more dominant whooping on his opponent.
"Going in there and fighting another human being, you don't need much more motivation than that," Bader told CBS Sports. "I'm in a unique circumstance where everybody that's fighting me, it's the biggest fight of their life because it's for a title. Whereas me, I've fought for titles and have been defending my title for a long time here in Bellator. Pretty much for the whole time. I wouldn't say it's lost its luster but, for me, it feels like just another fight. I expect Kongo to be much better and come out really hard and fight to the end. I treat every fight the same. If I come in and don't train as hard or don't do the things that need to be done, the longer that'll be in my mind and I'll be kicking myself. I always put my all into training and walk into that cage confident that I did everything that I could do to be successful.
Check out the full interview with Elnur Abduraimov vs Manuel Correa below.
Kongo (31-11-2, 1 NC) has a home-cage advantage in his birthplace of Paris, France. Kongo, who made his MMA debut back in 2001, will compete in MMA in his hometown for just the second time in his career. Kongo's last performance in front of his countrymen left something to be desired. He took a split decision loss to Timothy Johnson in October 2020, snapping a nine-fight undefeated streak spanning five years. Kongo is a significant underdog heading into this fight, due in part to the trajectory of their first encounter. Kongo has some things in his favor, though. The UFC alum has a seven-inch reach and two-inch heigh advantage. The lean heavyweight has also absorbed shockingly little damage for someone competing against heavy hitters for more than two decades. Kongo has only been knocked out three times over the span of 45 fights.
"It will be great for the French people to have the belt at home and claim France is a really good country for MMA. The supporters and fighters in France used to live for those moments, so for me, it's normality and a great opportunity to show the world we're still in the game. We are here now – let's do this," Kongo said at Wednesday's media day. "I was expecting the fight [against Bader] to happen really quickly, but it has taken almost three years. I had to keep going no matter what. We have the crowd and we have no excuses – showing how great Bellator Paris is, that's one of the big motivations for Friday."
"I visualize the same man with a different skin color," Romero told CBS Sports this week through a translator. "They are both the same stature. They both look similar physically. With both, we're going to wrestle. Thank God the plan didn't have to change. One opponent was a striker, so we were going to wrestle him. The other fighter is primarily a wrestler-grappler. We've been training wrestling this entire camp so we're going to wrestle him."