Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal (9-1) proved a point last night by absolutely pasting Lorenz Larkin (12-1) and handing the rising prospect his first pro loss: there's a great big difference between being a long-time title contender and a long-time star of the now defunct Strikeforce Challengers series.
Larkin was one of the most promising talents coming out of the Challengers series, a sort of minor league within the minor league of Strikeforce. A skilled Muay Thai kickboxer with speed and athleticism, Larkin had looked very good against lesser competition.
He wasn't facing lesser competition last night. Lawal, one of the most highly decorated amateur wrestlers to ever compete in MMA, is a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ. Lawal is also a natural 205 pounder where Larkin could easily trim down and make middleweight. The size and strength differential, and the yawning abyss between the respective wrestling abilities of Lawal and Larkin, made this a mission impossible for Larkin.
Lawal repeatedly managed to clinch with Larkin and apply trip take downs. Larkin has good take down defense but Lawal has world-class wrestling and it wasn't an even struggle. Once on the ground Lawal took his time in the first round, content to stay in guard and score points if not damage.
In the second round, Lawal got his right hand free, got some elevation and really battered Larkin senseless. Referee Kim Winslow, fresh off a premature stoppage in Gian Villante's win over Trevor Smith on the undercard, let Larkin take several punches more than necessary.
Lawal complained about the late stoppage immediately, but after the decision was announced he told announcer Mauro Ranallo that WInslow told him she liked to give fighters every chance to recover and that he could respect that.
Lawal will now be at the front of the line to fight for Dan Henderson's vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight title. Larkin will be back to the drawing board, and hopefully looking into diet plans and a move down to 185 pounds. Lawal just signed a new four fight deal with Strikeforce even while complaining about not being allowed to move up to the UFC.