The much-hyped match-up between former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal and Roger Gracie ended in spectacular fashion last night (September 10, 2011) on the Strikeforce Grand Prix: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" main card.
"King Mo" Lawal entered the bout as the vaunted wrestler with some elite international credentials while Gracie had not only the family name but the much-deserved reputation as the most dangerous submission fighter on the planet.
Gracie never got the opportunity to showcase his elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, however, and ended the night stiff on the canvas after being laid out by a huge right hand from Lawal.
So how did it happen, and more importantly, what's next for both men?
As much as Gracie's submission skills were hoping to be a factor in this bout, every fight starts standing and Lawal was extremely patient with his striking, not even entering a three foot radius around Gracie for the first minute.
With absolutely no fear of Gracie's striking, "King Mo" kept his lead left hand extremely low, occasionally darting forward and poking with a left jab while constantly moving. Gracie began to get a little frustrated, his clinch attempts were shrugged off and he even threw a flying knee to no avail.
After over four minutes of a feeling out process, the finish more than made up for it.
Gracie closed the distance trying to get inside with a left hand right as "King Mo" ducked forward. Their heads collided which may have temporarily stunned Gracie.
Gracie leaned his head straight back just as Lawal threw a massive overhand right that hit him square on the chin. As Gracie fell backwards trying to utilize his guard, Lawal swiftly danced around Gracie's legs and dropped a thunderous right hand that put the world champion jiu-jitsu player's lights out for good. Those were some incredible finishing instincts from Lawal.
Notice how even though he had Gracie hurt, he refused to simply dive on top of him, wisely avoiding even the possibility of Gracie recovering and being able to go to work with submissions. He simply bypassed that route entirely before dropping that finishing blow.
For Roger Gracie, he played it a little too safe here. He should have been more aggressive with his attack, and especially more aggressive with his attempts to get the fight to the ground. Sure, Lawal is a world class wrestler, but all that standing around simply gave "King Mo" the information he needed to find the proper distance and land the huge overhand right.
There have been some murmurs about whether Roger Gracie should fight again, but I'm all for it. He's still an incredibly talented finisher with his submissions and he's got a crazy-long reach. He just needs to learn to utilize it a bit better in the stand-up and find a better way to get the fight to the ground. He'll be fine. Perhaps a fight against Renato Sobral or another mid-level light heavyweight will help him build confidence.
For Muhammed Lawal, that was a fantastic performance with a highlight reel-worthy finish. He wanted to keep this bout standing at all costs and he was never even threatened with a takedown or even a respectable clinch attack and he took advantage of an opportunity and finished the fight.
Lawal wants to quit screwing around and head to the UFC immediately, but if they give him another fight in Strikeforce first, a potential rematch with Rafael Cavalcante could be in order. Both men looked terrific last night and now that "King Mo" is healthy, he could be geared up for earning some serious revenge.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
How impressed were you with Lawal's finishing instincts? Is Gracie still a legitimate MMA prospect in your eyes?
All gifs from Zombie Prophet at IronForgesIron.com.