Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Muhammad Lawal (8-1) sat at yesterday’s Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine press conference and looked like he didn’t have a care in the world.
With his now trademark headphones slightly above his ears, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion looked down through most of the conference and only perked up when correcting CEO Scott Coker about his weight class (Coker mistakenly referred to Lawal as a middleweight).
It’s not that “King Mo” is disinterested—nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that he’s been here before.
Surging prospect Lorenz Larkin (12-0) will stand across from Lawal in the cage come Saturday night. Being the more experienced fighter with a stellar fight IQ to match, “King Mo” has likely broken down his flashier opponent in his head.
And it’s not that Mo is looking past Larkin, it’s just that the glitz and glamor of Larkin’s striking style isn’t a major concern. Looking back at his upset win against Gegard Mousasi, Mo will have no comparisons between this fight and his bout with the kick boxer.
“With Gegard, a lot of y’all thought he was God,” Lawal said addressing the media last week. “You all put him on a pedestal. I’m not on the same pedestal Gegard is on and Larkin doesn’t have a wrestling background. Larkin is flashy but I’m going to shut him down. That jumping Shaolin Kung-Fu stuff is not going to work.”
Mo’s demeanor belies his true feelings about the 205-pound tilt.
“I’m excited for this fight. He’s a tough young kid, hungry like me. I’m starving, I’m just ready for this fight. I’m going to come off like Chael Sonnen mixed with [Nick] Diaz. When the bell rings, we banging. I’m ready.”
So confident is Mo that he interjected when Coker was asked if he’d fight for a title with a victory.
“If Mo wins, I think that’s a natural progression…” Coker began.
“What’s up with the ‘if Mo wins?” Lawal shot back. “It’s ‘when Mo wins.'”
Again, it’s not that Mo is overlooking Larkin. He referred to the rising star as one of the best he’s fought, up there with his toughest competition to date. Lawal sees something in Larkin he can exploit. It’s not arrogance, its supreme confidence in his skills.
And there might also be something to the stories that he’s a heavy handed hitter.
“People just don’t know,” Strikeforce middleweight champion and teammate Luke Rockhold said. “I’ve sparred with some heavy hitters. Mo’s speed and power is second to none. The guy hits like a ton of bricks.”
If Mo has anything to say about it, Larkin will find out first hand.
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