Strikeforce kicks off their first card of 2012 from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas this Saturday night, Jan. 7, LIVE on Showtime with “Rockhold vs. Jardine“. The main event features middleweight champion Luke Rockhold putting his title on the line against UFC vet Keith Jardine who is making his 185 pound debut.

Continuing with our preview of the main card, let us now take a look at the light heavyweight match-up between former Strikeforce 205 pound champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (8-1) and unbeaten knockout specialist Lorenz “The Monsoon” Larkin (12-0).

“King Mo” Lawal (9-0 MMA, 3-1 Strikeforce)

Total 9
Wins 8
By knockout 6
By decision 2
Losses 1
By knockout 1

“King Mo’s” rise to prominence in the MMA world has been well-documented. As an elite level wrestler he made the transition to pro mixed martial arts in 2008 where he cut his proverbial teeth fighting veterans of the sport in Japan. He built his record to 5-0 before signing with Strikeforce in 2009.

Mo won the Strikeforce light heavyweight title in just his second fight with the promotion, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Gegard Mousasi. Although Mo’s striking had improved tremendously, veteran knockout artist and Team Blackhouse member Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante handed the “King” his first defeat in his first title defense in Aug. 2010.

Due to a torn ACL, Mo was sidelined for over a year, making a grand return in Sept. 2011 with a first round knockout of then unbeaten Roger Gracie.

Lorenz Larkin (12-0 MMA, 3-0 Strikeforce)

Total 12
Wins 12
By knockout 8
By decision 4

A 25-year-old Riverside, Calif., native with a background in boxing and kung-fu, Lorenz Larkin made his professional MMA debut in 2009 on a regional show in Irvine, Calif. From Aug. 2009 to Feb. 2011 Larkin bounced around the So-Cal circuit knocking out seven of his first nine opponents.

Still undefeated after nine pro bouts, Larkin made his Strikeforce debut as part of their Challengers Series in April 2011 scoring a second round knockout of K-1 veteran and former Chuck Liddell training partner, Scott Lighty. Larkin returned to the Strikeforce cage two months later winning a unanimous decision over former Ring of Combat heavyweight champion Gianpiero Villante.

Larkin’s most recent Strikeforce bout took place this past September as a Challengers Series headliner when he scored a unanimous decision victory over submission ace Nick Rossborough. Now 12-0, Larkin will face the biggest test of his career in Lawal.

THE ODDS: Lawal -475, Larkin +375

THE MATCH-UP: Larkin has a nice neat clean record. It is impressive in fact. Twelve wins, no defeats with eight knockouts. But when you look at his record, few of the names are recognizable. When you look at Lawal’s record, all of the names are well known solid fighters.

Larkin is a very good striker. Could Lawal stand and trade with him and win the fight on the feet at this point? Possibly, but why take the chance? We have never seen Larkin tested against an elite wrestler, but we have seen Lawal tested against top strikers, in fact, Lawal’s one slip-up came when he tried to stand with one.

Lawal has heavy hands and can generally knock out lesser strikers. He likes to entertain, so there is a chance he could try and trade with Larkin. The best bet would be for him to mix it up and use his wrestling and striking, staying unpredictable.

THE PICK: Lawal still does not have a submission win on his record. This could be the fight for that. We have never really seen Larkin on his back — it is almost a guarantee we will on Saturday. Lawal should take this fight pretty easily if he plays it smart. If he chooses to give the fans and show and try to prove a point with his striking, it could get interesting. Lawal by decision.

By Jack Bratcher


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