It may be cliche but when Muhammed Lawal steps inside the hexagon tonight (Sept. 9, 2011) to hit the mats with Roger Gracie at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" in Cincinnati, it will truly be a clash of styles.
That's because "King Mo" is a wrestler, through and through. Gracie, for his part, is a master of the discipline made famous by those that bear his last name, Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
What makes this clash of styles so interesting is the elite level both fighters have attained within their chosen craft. Lawal is an Olympic level grappler, an NCAA All American. His credentials are legitimate and his professional mixed martial arts record backs it up.
He owns seven wins to just one loss since breaking into the fight game back in late 2008. Sure, he was soundly beaten the last time he competed, but a bum knee helped that process along. After a lengthy rehabilitation process, it's time to remind the world why he had so much hype the past few years.
Speaking of hype ...
There are few light heavyweights in the fight game right now that possesses more of it than Roger Gracie. His pedigree is unmatched and his skills on the floor unparalleled. One would find it difficult to question his considerable skill set, at least as it pertains to grappling.
The fact that he's managed to string together four consecutive submission victories as a professional -- doing so on such an infrequent basis -- have many a pundit rushing to declare him a deity.
But is he really the next big thing?
The problem isn't whether or not he can submit Lawal when the fight hits the floor; the answer to that question is shockingly clear. It's how exactly he'll handle himself in the event that his game is neutralized by a superior control artist. And what if he remains vertical the entire fight? What then?
These questions need definitive answers but tonight isn't likely to provide us with them. Instead, we're headed for a veteran wrestler looking to prove a point against a submission specialist with a whole lot of hype.
Should be fun.