With founder Bjorn Rebney out and Strikeforce founder Scott Coker in, Bellator is sailing through uncharted waters, so perhaps a little navigational guidance is needed – particularly when it comes to matching up their current roster of stars with viable opponents.
Yeah, I’m talking about one fighter specifically: “King Mo”, a.k.a., Muhammed Lawal, the brash former Strikeforce champ with a penchant for spectacle and sudden violence.
At Bellator’s most recent outing, King Mo crushed UFC vet-turned-GLORY kickboxer Dustin Jacoby in just over a minute. Though Jacoby is most certainly an experienced fighter, there was little hope he’d be the one to usurp the king. But Lawal’s original scheduled opponent, Tom DeBlass, who had to be replaced due to a knee injury he’s since recovered from… well, that’s another story.
As a world-class grappler and ardent jiu-jitsu guy, DeBlass has the chops to handle King Mo on the ground; meanwhile, if his performance at Bellator 108 is of any indication (a performance that resulted in his opponent lying semi-conscious on the canvas), DeBlass has more than enough to take him out on the feet as well. But skill sets alone do not compelling matches make. No, what would make a Lawal and DeBlass pairing compelling is what does – and does not – come out of their mouths.
I’m talking about respect.
Whereas the man wearing the crown likes to talk endless amounts of trash and occasionally scuff with his adversaries before the first bell (see: his antics with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson), DeBlass is the kind of fighter who’ll knock an opponent out then hold his hand until he wakes up.
For further proof of their clashing personalities, look no further than Twitter. Here’s King Mo’s answer when presented with the question of taking on the Ricardo Almeida-trained fighter:
— King Mo (@KingMoFH) September 9, 2014
The difference in attitudes is readily apparent.
Should simple words be enough to warrant a match-up in Coker’s new “Spikeforce”? Of course not. But King Mo and DeBlass have the requisite skills and experience to give their clash meaning. The words – and the respect (or lack thereof) they signify – would only make their battling sweeter.