Tenured MMA fans know about wrestlers in the sport. They’ve seen it turn out well like with Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, and they’ve seen it turn out terrible (see Ron Faircloth vs. Alessio Sakara at UFC 55). However, until 2009, MMA fans had not seen anyone quite like Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal – the ProMMA.info Breakthrough Fighter of 2009.
After coming up literally one match short of the 2008 Olympics games, Lawal turned his attention to MMA. He finished the year 2-0 after scoring finishes over Travis Wiuff and Fabio Silva under the Sengoku banner. “King Mo” was born. The table was set for the former Oklahoma State Cowboy to have a king-sized 2009, and he did not disappoint.
On Jan. 4, Lawal started his year off with a TKO stoppage victory. His veteran opponent, Yukiya Naito, was not considered much of a threat, but Lawal still impressed. For only his third fight he seemed entirely at home in the ring. Despite being a lifelong wrestler, he did not go for one single takedown. Instead he stayed patient until he landed the powerful right that started the fight-ending sequence.
Lawal returned to the Sengoku ring on March 20 to face light heavyweight King of Pancrase Ryo Kawamura. “King Mo” came into the fight with an injured knee and hurt his hand in the first round. He still notched his fourth victory. Even though this was his first fight to go the distance, he was dominant throughout. The novice fighter showed an advanced grasp of the MMA game. He was never even in danger against a game opponent despite not being 100 percent.
Up until this point in his career, Lawal was mostly relevant to the hardcore fans who pull all-nighters to watch Japanese MMA. On Aug. 28, he started his North American coming out party in a big way. MMA’s biggest propaganda machine, M-1 Global, chose Lawal to headline their first major U.S. event.
Don Frye withdrew from the event late, and was replaced by fallen fighter Mark Kerr. Against a fighter like Kerr, a prospect not only needs to win. He also needs to win in dramatic fashion. Lawal certainly understood this principle. Almost immediately after the opening bell, he scored with a near-perfect high-crotch lift and pounded out the veteran. The fight was over in 25 seconds. The MMA world watched live on HDNet.
After his destruction of Kerr, Lawal signed with the current number two promotion, Strikeforce. They matched him with Mike Whitehead, the world’s ultimate gate keeper. On Dec. 19, Lawal dispatched Whitehead in the first round. To the surprise of basically no one the fight was hardly competitive. He finished the year by running his career record to 6-0 live on Showtime.
A lot of fighters like to let their fighting do the talking. Lawal’s accomplishments do speak for themselves, but a simple review of his in-ring performances does not fully depict the person that is “King Mo.” Outside of the fighting in 2009 he has come to the ring surrounded by strippers, coined the term “moneyweight” and even feuded with former UFC champion Quinton Jackson.
2009 really was the year that Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal became a major figure in the MMA world.
Stay close to ProMMA.info for the rest of our 2009 awards.