Despite their combined age of 87, heavyweight duo Sergei Kharitonov and Cheick Kongo put on a show for fight fans in their Bellator heavyweight headliner on Friday, with the French star landing a buzzer-beating submission win.
An action-packed two rounds at the Sanford Pentagon in South Dakota saw 41-year-old Kharitonov gain the ascendency in round one by landing some big shots, although the Russian veteran also caught his rival with an eye poke from a kick.
But into round two it was Kongo, 46, who turned the bout on its head by blasting the Russian with a series of heavy punches and knees before shooting for the takedown.
With Kharitonov there for the taking, Kongo locked in a rear-naked chokehold and forced the Russian to tap with just one second remaining of the round.
The veteran duo both appeared exhausted at the conclusion of the bout, with Kongo slumping to the side of the cage.
The victory meant the French former UFC star bounced back from the defeat he suffered to American Timothy Johnson in his last outing in October, which is Kongo’s only loss in his last 11 fights.
Kharitonov paid tribute to the victor and his remarkable longevity.
“I only have respect for [Kongo],” said the Russian in a video message posted to his Instagram following.
“I probably even want to say that this is an example for me. It shows that at 46 [years old] you can go out and win.
“I’m not going to stop. Yes, defeat today. We will continue to train. I am sure there are still many victories ahead, so good luck to everyone and only forward, we are moving on.”
Fans raved about the contest between the two veterans, with one writing excitedly: “I was sleeping on this fight, man that was a BANGER.”
“Kongo rebounded very well even after the eye poke and Kharitonov grabbing the fence a couple times during a couple of Kongo’s attempted takedowns. Both of these fighters have finished a lot of opponents over their careers. Their fight was action packed,” added another.
“I loved the fight, it’s the most Kongo fight of all time where you wonder what he’s doing, think he’s going to lose, and then he triumphs in the weirdest way possible,” tweeted a fellow fan.