The “King” is waiting in the wings to ascend to his throne, and the journey there begins in only a short amount of time.

While the rest of Bellator’s season-eight light heavyweight tournament begins this Thursday, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal’s begins in two weeks. At that time, he starts his ascension to the top of the promotion’s light heavyweight mountain.

Although the tournament does have some significant names, including Seth Petruzelli and Renato “Babalu” Sobral, could this tournament be purely a showcase of Lawal’s talents? Is it just a tournament to help promote and justify the expected future Bellator champion?

The answer is extremely simple: yes.

Lawal is perhaps the most powerful wrestler in Bellator and could be the most dominant fighter that the promotion has seen.

Not only does Lawal possess an elite wrestling background from his time at Oklahoma State, he also has a powerful striking arsenal that has led him to six knockout victories—technically seven, but his knockout win over Lorenz Larkin was overturned after Lawal tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The promotion’s current champion, Christian M’Pumbu, is set to defend his title against Attila Vegh in February, but regardless of who emerges victorious, neither fighter is at the level of Lawal, who, due only to inactivity, has dropped to a fringe top-15 fighter in a weight class dominated by UFC fighters. M’Pumbu and Vegh have yet to even glimpse such high acclaim within MMA circles, and there’s a reason why.

In a non-title affair, M’Pumbu struggled against Travis Wiuff, who utilized his wrestling to neutralize anything M’Pumbu threw at him. If Wiuff was able to succeed through such means, what would happen against someone like Lawal, who has the powerful wrestling to take opponents down and the ground-and-pound to finish them off? Wiuff doesn’t really attempt to end fights, Lawal does.

But before Lawal gets to fight for the title, he has to earn his shot the same way that anyone in Bellator would, through an eight-man tournament. Although the tournament features a mix of veterans and up-and-comers, many with outstanding records, Lawal must be considered the favorite to come out on top.

But if Lawal is going to lose in the tourney, it will be courtesy of Petruzelli. The man is simply the best underdog fighter in MMA. When you think you can count him out, he gets the best of you. Just ask Kimbo Slice and EliteXC about Petruzelli, they’ve seen the magnitude to which Petruzelli can play the spoiler.

Petruzelli looked great in his Bellator debut against Ricco Rodriguez in a 230-pound catchweight fight. He has great kickboxing skills—12 of his 14 wins come by knockout—but in order to win the finals, he would have to beat out wrestlers and jiu-jitsu fighters, something he has struggled to do (four of his six losses came by submission).

Petruzelli may be the dark horse to watch, but Lawal is simply a class above most of the fighters in the tournament. Lawal has faced the best possible talent outside of the UFC, and he beat all but one of those opponents.

Bellator’s tournament is one tough thing to overcome. When you win it, you’re a legitimate title threat, and if you grab the title, you become a legitimate champion. Lawal is simply going to be that man come the end of the tournament. It’s King Mo’s show, and it seems everybody is trying to vie to be the “Best Supporting Actor.”

Photo: Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.