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Cheick Kongo outpoints Alexander Volkov at Bellator 139

Bellator MMA heavyweight Cheick Kongo found a big hole early in Alexander Volkov's skill set -- and spent the rest of the fight exploiting it

Kongo (23-10-2) dominated Volkov in a three-round unanimous decision at Bellator 139 on Friday night at Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. The 40-year-old veteran had no problem taking Volkov down in each of the three rounds, dropping ground and pound from top position and racking up points on the judges' scorecards.

A former champion under the Bellator banner, Volkov looked lost trying to fight off his back. He attempted one kimura in the second round -- which had virtually zero effect -- and never came close to getting back to his feet. Referee John McCarthy helped him out once in the final round, calling for a standup after Kongo's activity on top slowed, but Volkov immediately gave up another takedown on the restart.

The Russian heavyweight scored a handful of combinations early in the fight, before Kongo started to wrestle. His best sequence came in the center of the cage, when he landed a hard left kick to the body followed by a stiff right hand.

Once Kongo made up his mind to wrestle, however, Volkov was finished. He managed to hit Kongo several times with knees as he shot for takedowns, but ultimately all the knees did were make it easier for Kongo to throw him off-balance. Kongo opened a cut on Volkov's forehead with an elbow in the first round and scored a few hard right hands in the third after standing over Volkov's guard.

Volkov made one final effort in the last minute of the fight, nearly sinking in a guillotine as Kongo dove recklessly forward in a takedown attempt. His arms were fairly gassed at that point in the fight, however, and Kongo escaped the choke.

Kongo improves to 5-3 in the Bellator cage. He suffered a split-decision loss to former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal in February. Prior to that loss, he had finished back-to-back fights. Volkov suffers consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

Rickels-Alessio ends in no-contest

A split-second lapse in judgment cost David Rickels a knockout win.

A lightweight bout between Rickels (16-3) and John Alessio (35-17) ended in a no-contest when Alessio was unable to continue after getting hit by an illegal knee in the first round.

Referee Rob Hinds ruled the illegal knee to a downed opponent unintentional, saving Rickels from a disqualification loss. Rickels threw the illegal knee as Alessio was badly hurt and turtled up near the fence.

"The fight was going exactly as I expected," Rickels said. "I am peaking in performance. You're going to see more performances like this, except I'm going to legally finish them next time. I got a little crazy and kneed him in the head. I screwed up. I don't know. It could have been stopped any second."

Alessio wasn't knocked unconscious by the knee but he gave no indication of wanting to restart the fight. Hinds gave him time to recover but Alessio, who had been getting battered from essentially the opening bell, was clearly done.

A former title contender, Rickels lit up Alessio on the feet, particularly with knees from the clinch. He clipped Alessio with an early right hand that had him blinking and circling along the outside of the fence. Rickels calmly stalked forward, grazing Alessio with a high left head kick and more knees up the middle. Alessio eventually crumpled under the pressure, which led to the illegal knee.

Prior to the fight, Rickels had expressed interest in a rematch with former 155-pound champion Michael Chandler. Chandler (13-3) knocked Rickels out in just 44 seconds when they met for the first time in a July 2013 title fight. He is coming off a first-round finish over Derek Campos at Bellator 138 last week.

Kato scores thrilling KO of Schilling

There's a new candidate for knockout of the year, and feared striker Joe Schilling was on the wrong end of it.

Japanese middleweight and Bellator newcomer Hisaki Kato (5-1) scored a highlight-reel finish over Schilling 34 seconds into the second round, knocking the former kickboxing champion out cold with a straight left hand.

It was the 32-year-old Kato's debut under the Bellator banner and first professional appearance in the U.S. He entered the 185-pound bout as a more than 4-to-1 underdog.

"I believed in myself," Kato said. "I know I have heavy hands. I just need one good shot to knock somebody out. Japanese MMA is not just about grappling. We have strikers."

Kato literally took a running start into the left hand. Schilling, who was attempting to rebound from a split-decision loss in April, threw a counter left hook as Kato rushed forward, but failed to connect. It was the first time Schilling has been knocked out in MMA.

The stunning finish capped a well-rounded performance by Kato. He backed Schilling up to the fence with a left hand in the first round and then ducked in for an easy takedown. Schilling attempted a few submissions from his back, but Kato easily defended and eventually passed guard. Schilling managed to get back to his feet in the final seconds of the round, only to eat a few punches before the bell.

Based out of Los Angeles, Schilling spent part of his training camp at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and had publicly spoke about a permanent move to the well-established gym. Bellator has already announced Schilling will compete in a GLORY kickboxing bout as part of a hybrid Dynamite live event Sept. 19 in San Jose, California.

Curran snaps losing skid

Former featherweight champion Pat Curran proved too much for Emmanuel Sanchez, defeating the 24-year-old prospect via unanimous decision for his first win of 2015.

Curran (21-7) won comfortably on all three judges' scorecards, 30-27. He located Sanchez (10-2) with the right hand throughout the first two rounds, before taking the fight to the ground in the third.

After results were read, Curran thanked Sanchez in the cage for taking the bout. A member of Roufusport MMA in Milwaukee, Sanchez accepted the fight on short notice earlier this month.

"I was on a two-fight losing streak and I really needed this win," Curran said. "I want to thank Emmanuel Sanchez and his camp for stepping up on three weeks' notice. I'm going to keep coming. I have a lot to improve on. I'm right back to the gym and I'm only going to get better."

Curran relied heavily on the right hand, especially in the opening round. Sanchez attempted to counter with leg kicks, but he consistently drew the worse of the exchanges and appeared staggered at one point by a Curran combination.

Early in the second, Sanchez suffered a cut over his left eye due to an accidental head butt. He started to pick up Curran's timing a little more on the feet and even knocked him down at one point with a right hand, but Curran responded with punches of his own. The final round was all Curran, as he took Sanchez down early and eventually took his back in the final 90 seconds of the fight.

The win is Curran's first since a submission victory over Daniel Straus at Bellator 112 in March 2014. The 27-year-old held the belt as recently as September, but had lost three of his last four fights heading into Friday. Sanchez falls to 2-1 in the Bellator cage.