What a difference a year makes.
Just one year ago today, no one knew who Lorenz Larkin was. He was preparing to battle Mike Cook in the co-main event of MEZ Sports: Pandemonium 4 in his hometown of Riverside, California.
One injury to Satoshi Ishii was all it took for "The Monsoon" to step up on short notice and become a young star for the California-based organization.
Now, after three straight wins on the Challengers series, it's make or break time for Larkin as he'll be battling former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal for a shot at the vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight title.
The undefeated striker was a guest on Bloody Elbow Radio where he spoke with me about his preparation for "King Mo's" wrestling, making alterations to his striking game and his confidence level heading into by far the biggest fight of his young career.
Check it out:
Matt Bishop: You are fighting King Mo Lawal on the main card of Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine. Obviously, this is the biggest fight of your career. Do you feel like you're ready to take this step to fight a former world champion?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, that's why I got into this sport, to test myself. I just felt like it was a big test for me and I'm gonna have to prove myself. I felt like every fight I'm testing myself, so this is just another fight.
Matt Bishop: So what have you been doing in training because obviously Mo is a world class wrestler. Who have you been working with for this fight? I assume you've been working with some wrestlers. Who has been helping you take your wrestling to the next level?
Lorenz Larkin: In the beginning of this camp, we all sat down and we really thought about bringing up our wrestling to the next degree, so this whole camp I've been working with Kurt Angle and he's been really getting me ready for this fight.
Matt Bishop: Really?
Lorenz Larkin: (laughs) Nah, man. I'm just messing with ya. I've been crosstraining with Blackhouse and Alliance and working with Phil Davis and Kenny Johnson.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had about four weeks' notice to prepare for this fight. How much do you feel you could actually improve with the wrestling and all that in four weeks? I know you're putting in time with elite guys but are you seeing noticeable improvement?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, actually I have. Since this was like a four week camp, we've been working a six day training schedule and I get to rest on Sundays. We're hitting it very hard and I've seen the difference with my takedown defense just in the short time that I've been working with the guys that I've been working with so yeah, it's improved my game a lot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One year ago today, you were preparing to fight Mike Cook at MEZ Sports: Pandemonium 4. Do you ever just think and look back and think, "Wow, so much has happened to me in such a short time?"
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, it is pretty crazy. Everybody's asking, "How do you feel about this fight?" and I just keep saying, "I'm honored, I'm looking at it a totally different way than other people are looking at it." I get questions like, "Do you feel like you're ready?" just for me to even be considered to fight King Mo, you have to understand that just this April, I was new to the organization. Nobody knew about me or had ever heard of me.
I was just this guy that was pretty much getting fed to Scott Lighty and I was pumped enough to even be in Strikeforce on TV. That was the biggest accomplishment of my career in April. Just to have these last three fights, every single thing that I've been doing is the biggest thing of my career. My second fight, I'm fighting again on TV and my third fight in Strikeforce, I'm headlining and that's the biggest thing. Now, to be considered for King Mo and it's for title contention, that's a whole 'nother big thing in itself. I'm taking it like it's the biggest accomplishment for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now there's a lot of parallels, I see, looking at your fight with King Mo compared to Ovince St. Preux's fight against Gegard Mousasi. Both really talented prospects undefeated in Strikeforce and then stepping up against the former champion. Do you kind of look at that fight and are there any concerns seeing how he did stepping up like that for the first time?
Lorenz Larkin: No, listen. To me, it's MMA. Anything can happen. I can go in there and be the best conditioned Lorenz Larkin that I've seen or anyone else has seen and get dropped in the first five seconds or it could be the total opposite. You never know in the fight. I felt it was a good showing for OSP and it was a hard fight for Mousasi. That was along, hard-fought drawn out fight. I don't think that he got demolished. I just think that him being a veteran, that came into play.
Matt Bishop: You have such unique striking. What would you consider your base for striking?
Lorenz Larkin: I would say I consider it kung fu. My reasoning behind that, I never studied kung fu but I've always watched it growing up, watching kung fu flicks and everything I was taught, I always tried to throw it different. The good thing about my camp is when I learn something, I go, "How can I throw it to be weird," and my coaches find out a way for me to throw that punch differently because to me, everyone gets taught the same punches, jab, cross, straight, hook, uppercut. Everybody gets taught the same way and the same thing. It's just how you apply it. I try to apply it differently than I've seen so that's what kind of created my style.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to delve a little more into your training with Kenny Johnson because he's the Blackhouse wrestling coach and he basically prepares a lot of these guys that don't really have wrestling backgrounds to go in there and beat these guys with the big wrestling backgrounds. So how has he really been able to help you prepare?
Lorenz Larkin: He's Yoda. Kenny's been doing wonders with my wrestling and really, it's about making me more confident to throw hard punches and being able to stop the shots while still throwing hard punches. He doesn't want me to take away from my striking to worry about the shot so it takes away power. If I'm hesitant and I'm worried about the shot, then my striking suffers so he's been doing wonders with me and it's been paying off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's something you see a lot when a talented striker steps in against a good wrestler, they almost tend to let themselves get outstruck by the wrestler because they're so psyched out and afraid of the takedowns, they down it down. Kicks are a huge part of your game too. You throw a lot of diverse kicks and they're really an important part of your attacking arsenal. Are you confident to go in there and throw all these kicks because that's something you see a lot of strikers afraid to do against elite wrestlers.
Lorenz Larkin: Yes, certain kicks. I'm not going to be throwing my usual, but certain ones, I will be throwing. It's kinda top secret though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your last two fights, you fought Nick Rossborough and Gian Villante, two of the biggest light heavyweights out there so is it kind of nice to finally be fighting a guy that's close to your size? I think King Mo is like one inch taller with a small reach advantage, is it nice go in there where you're not going to have the threat of being physically dominated in the size department?
Lorenz Larkin: Yeah, it's a big change. I know he's still gonna be strong but man, when I fought Villante, I was saying, "This is gonna be the biggest 205-er I ever come across," and then they gave me Nick Rossborough and he's like double the size of Villante. It's a relief for me to go against somebody my own size. He's a bit more cut, but six packs are overrated and I don't worry much about that.
Lorenz Larkin: They gave me a call and they were really welcoming about it so we came down to HB and gave them some work. He was fighting a southpaw so I had to go southpaw with him and give him some rounds. It was good. I thought when I went out there, this guy, you see on TV that he comes off as an asshole so I didn't know what he was gonna bring. When I met him, he was real cool, real down to Earth.
Matt Bishop: You've got King Mo on January 7th. What's gonna be the biggest key for you to win that fight?
Lorenz Larkin: Just doing everything I've been doing in training. I've got to let my hands go and fight the fight that got me where I'm at right now and don't shy away from it. I'm just gonna bring the fight to Mo and be in there for the long haul.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Can Larkin rise to the occasion and pull off the upset against "King Mo?" Or is this too much, too soon for the undefeated prospect?