It’s a rare thing in sports to have two future stars in their respective fields go toe-to-toe as both are just entering their prime. Its even rarer for everyone to be aware of it.
This Saturday, at Strikeforce: Nashville, such a thing will happen, as Gegard Mousasi will defend his light heavyweight title against ‘King Mo’ Muhammed Lawal.
A glimpse into the future of the light heavyweight division, Mousasi (28-2-1) and ‘King Mo’ (6-0) provide a fascinating matchup of contrasting styles. The way this fight is playing out and with potential each fighter has, their fight this week equates with Magic vs. Bird in the 1979 NCAA Championship. Sounds crazy but hear me out.
With Mousasi and Lawal, you have two stars in the making that are being put on display in front of a national TV audience, right as each is entering the prime of their career. Lawal possesses elements of Magic’s game, a flashy fighter who never fails to put on a show. Mousasi is a perfect foil, a silent assassin who plays out his fights in his head while he picks apart his opponent, much like Bird. And like Bird and Magic, you know going into this fight that this is the start of something special.
Mousasi is a surgeon in the cage, systematically deconstructing his foes. With a judo and kickboxing background, ‘The Dreamcatcher’ is otherworldly in his ability to finish fights. With 28 victories under his belt, only 2 of those have reached a decision. To further his already well rounded game, he has recently been training with Georges St. Pierre in addition to the Russian Red Devil Team. The rich get richer…
Perhaps Mousasi’s biggest advantage over his opponents his cerebral approach to mixed martial arts. He is renowned for his mental game and intelligence in the cage. In his most recent Strikeforce fight, a 2nd round TKO of Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, he came under fire for allowing a vastly inferior opponent make it easily into the second round. Mousasi’s response? He was experimenting with a new technique in the fight that went awry, and once he realized things weren’t working out, he decided to end Sokoudjou’s night. Unreal.
One of Japan’s biggest stars, ‘King Mo’ possesses an extensive amateur wrestling background that features titles and championships from all over the world, including an All-American ranking while at Oklahoma State in 2003. In fact, Lawal was a heavy favorite to make the Olympics in 2008 before being upset in his last qualifying match. Few men can match the amateur wrestling pedigree of Muhammed Lawal.
In Lawal’s six fights, only one person has made it out of the first round without getting knocked out. His striking, particularly his ground and pound, has greatly improved since he made his debut in 2008, and although his competition has been subpar to this point, you can’t deny his dominance. His flashiness and penchant for quick finishes have made him a larger than life star in Japan, and his WWE-like entrances (Check out this walkout fit for a ‘King’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNZYabwS-7U) have only furthered the legend of ‘King Mo.’
While this fight is not the featured main event of the card, it probably should be. Scott Coker and the rest of Strikeforce are in a great situation with Mousasi and ‘King Mo,’ and if they wish to one day truly compete with UFC, these two could help them reach that goal. A rivalry between the two is already brewing, as Lawal recently made an uninvited appearance at an open workout of Mousasi’s. Trash talking ensued, but an annoyed Mousasi did not take the bait, citing his wishes to keep emotion out of this fight. It did not stop ‘King Mo’ from making a scene and building up hype for this event.
Strikeforce’s version of Chuck and Tito? Maybe its too early to go that far. But to say these two could develop a rivalry that could propel Strikeforce to new heights is certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
Tune into CBS this Saturday, so you can say you were there at the genesis of something special.
Check back with Boston Throwdown all week, as each day we will be previewing the upcoming Strikeforce:Nashville card right up until the event !