In one of the most predictable match-ups of last night (January 7, 2012), undefeated and undersized prospect Lorenz Larkin stepped up his competition level to an extreme by taking on former champion and world class wrestler Muhammed Lawal on the main card of Strikeforce: "Rockhold vs. Jardine" in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately for "The Monsoon," Lawal never really gave him the opportunity to unleash his torrent of attacks.
The flashy striker was completely neutralized en route to a second round technical knockout for "King Mo" Lawal.
So what went wrong for Larkin? And where do both men go from here?
From the onset, Larkin looked conservative, perhaps intimidated by the American Kickboxing Academy fighter and he wasn't able to get off with any of his flashy attacks which had become his trademark. Instead, after a very brief feeling-out period, Lawal shoot in and took the Riverside native down with ease.
On the ground, "King Mo" showcased an extremely powerful base, posturing up and dropping some ground and pound and shutting down all of Larkin's bottom game. Larkin attempted a half guard sweep which was neutralized before it even got started and his attempt to post and pop to his feet was quickly stifled as well as Mo closed the gap with a body lock and kept him down.
The only saving grace for Larkin was the horrific refereeing by Kim Winslow, who stood them up as Lawal was really getting going with his ground and pound. Referee stand-ups are there to prevent stalling or stalemated positions but Lawal was clearly getting the better of his opponent and was forcing Larkin to wilt under his pressure and powerful punches.
Once back to standing, Larkin flashed a jab and showcased some of his speed in his strikes, but he couldn't do nearly enough to make up for the punishment he took from his back.
In round two, Lawal quickly grabbed a leg and lifted it high, first attempting to kick Larkin's free leg out from under him but was content to drop down and power "The Monsoon" to the canvas. This time, Lawal postured up and began dropping down some seriously powerful right hands and Larkin had no response other than to eat them. It didn't take long for Larkin to flail about, unable to properly defend himself but Winslow allowed him to eat several unnecessary shots for good measure before stepping in.
For Lorenz Larkin, this fight was likely a wake-up call. He's stepped in against men considerably larger and stronger than him in his last three fights and Lawal was way too much for him at this point in his career. There's been plenty of talk from outsiders about him dropping down to middleweight, but sometimes, a fighter won't listen until they're forced to listen. He's still got tremendous talent, but he looked intimidated out there and it showed with his performance. Hopefully Strikeforce actually allows him to continue to develop should he drop down to middleweight before throwing him to the sharks again.
If Larkin remains at light heavyweight, perhaps someone along the lines of Abongo Humphry would be a good match-up. If he drops to middleweight, someone along the lines of Benji Radach or Antwain Britt would be a logical next step for him to continue to grow.
For Muhammed Lawal, he is who we thought he was. He's a powerful wrestler with terrific top control and the ability to unleash hell on his opponents. He took Larkin down at will and put a hurting on him. It appeared he had a specific strategy to neutralize "The Monsoon's" flashy striking and it worked perfectly. He attacked Larkin's body repeatedly to slow him down and he actually postured up while on the ground, which allowed him to throw heavier shots than the typical fighter.
Expect to see him fight for the vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight title next in a rematch either against recent winner Gegard Mousasi or if that somehow doesn't pan out, against September winner and fellow former champion Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante. Either way, Lawal is staying in Strikeforce for the time being.
WIth his skill-set, that's a damn shame.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you unsurprised with the result between Lawal and Larkin? What do you think should be the next logical step for both men?