The tournament system for Bellator title contention has brought fans some unexpected surprises, some obvious pairings and, of course, an occasional finale worth a pay-per-view offering. For it’s inaugural pay-per-view event, the promotion struck gold with a perfect match-up.

Headlining Bellator 120 this Saturday night, two top-level fighters and Tennessee natives will be gunning for the season-10 light heavyweight tournament title. UFC and Pride veteran Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will grace the Bellator cage in Southaven, Miss., which is basically a suburb of his hometown of Memphis. Standing across the cage from Rampage will be his nemesis, Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, whose own hometown of Murfreesboro is just a short three hours away.

At the beginning of 2013, King Mo was billed as Bellator’s top light heavyweight. Then, he was upset in the season-eight tournament semifinals by way of a first-round TKO served up by a crazy spinning backfist from Emanuel Newton. The former pro wrestler redeemed himself by winning the 2013 Summer Series, only to be beaten again by Newton for the interim title last November. Looking to get back in title contention, King Mo took a three-round decision over Mikhail Zayats in February to earn his spot in the season-10 finale this weekend. Rampage will be there to greet him.

Rampage had an estranged relationship with the UFC for the last few years of his employment with the organization. After a storied, five-year career in Pride, which included a middleweight title, and an even more storied, five-year career in the UFC, which included a light heavyweight title, Jackson started missing weight, complaining about his employers publicly and ultimately concluded his contract with three losses in a row. In June 2013, Bellator announced that he was going to be joining the organization. The world has seen a whole new fighter since then.

After a scheduled November pay-per-view match-up with Tito Ortiz never never came to fruition, Rampage took out Joey Beltran with a first-round knockout and, wanting to earn a shot at Bellator’s light heavyweight strap, entered the season-10 tournament. In his semifinal fight, he took out Christian M’Pumbu by first-round TKO on the same night Mo fought Zayats. After all of the lead-up and the aborted first pay-per-view venture last autumn, Bellator has finally struck gold with one of the best main events the promotion has ever scheduled.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Rampage – 10, King Mo – 9

Going into this match-up, it really doesn’t matter what each man has done in the past with their striking, because King Mo and Rampage are total brawlers on their feet. Both men have won the majority of their fights with their hands for a combined total of 25 knockouts and 14 decisions. Rampage is a little more unorthodox, throwing a lot of haymakers and crazy angles, whereas Mo, who has trained with guys like Cain Velasquez and Roy Nelson, is a little more technically proficient and statistically accurate. Both men have knockout power and the ability to grind.

Rampage, having gone nine years without being knocked out, has a tougher chin. He is coming off two knockout wins in a row, whereas Mo has had issues finishing in his last couple fights.

Lawal also hasn’t faced near the same level of talent. Rampage has fought guys like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Chuck Liddell, Jon Jones, Lyoto Machida and his longtime rival Wanderlei Silva.

Although Mo definitely has a puncher’s chance in this one, he would be unwise to go toe-to-toe with Rampage, especially since Jackson’s rebirth in Bellator, which has been all about knockouts.

Submission Grappling: Rampage – 10, King Mo – 10

On paper, one could look at Rampage’s seven submission victories and just hand this one to him on the ground, but that would be a poor assessment. The Memphis native’s last submission victory to utilize grappling came 13 years ago, and his last overall submission was by injury only a year later. King Mo, on the other hand, may not have any submission victories on record, but he has also never lost on the ground.

Both men have amateur wrestling backgrounds, but Lawal’s was at a much higher level. He earned NCAA Division I All-American honors at Oklahoma State University before winning gold in both the Pan-American and U.S. Championships. Although this section is not an assessment of either man’s wrestling prowess, this pedigree illustrates one man’s longtime avoidance of grappling finishes and the other man’s proficiency in ground defense.

Chances are this one will not spend much time on the ground, but if it does, it will likely result in a quick scramble to the feet instead of repeated submission attempts.

Wrestling: Rampage – 9, King Mo – 10

Submission grappling may not be something fans will see in this fight, but, if there’s not a quick knockout, there will definitely be some locking up against the cage. Both of these guys typically maintain distance on their feet, but as soon as one feels the other’s power, the clinch is imminent.

King Mo’s wrestling pedigree is at a much higher level than that of Rampage, who didn’t compete much beyond high school. Mo’s camp also has some of the best wrestlers in the world, meaning that Rampage will likely be the weaker of the two in the clinch and on the ground, should the fight get there. Physically, Rampage is just as strong as Mo, but Mo has the ability to lock up and dirty box a little more effectively. That’s a part of the game that hurt Rampage in his last UFC fight against Glover Teixeira. On the ground, Jon Jones bullied Rampage, who is a fish out of water once he’s on his back. If Mo plants Rampage on the mat, it will spell big trouble for the former UFC champ.

Both men have tremendous takedown defense and are very difficult to keep down, but Lawal is the more proficient of the two in the wrestling department.


The x-factor in this fight is clearly Rampage’s experience. For every top-level guy that King Mo has faced in Strikeforce and Bellator, Rampage has fought three even better UFC opponents. Rampage has been in the cage with the best of the best as far as light heavyweights go. Mo had to fight Gegard Mousasi to earn his Strikeforce title, and Mousasi isn’t even ranked at 205 pounds in the UFC. For everything King Mo can do well, Rampage has fought someone who can do it better. On Saturday night, if both men bring the best fighter they have ever been, Rampage’s best will be better than King Mo’s best by a longshot. If Rampage lets his background get ahead of this fight, though, Mo will have an opportunity for a huge upset.

Total: Rampage – 29, King Mo – 29

Verdict: This is probably one of the toughest fights to predict in a long time. Both men have a chance for a knockout, but the real question is whether King Mo’s technical proficiency in wrestling will be enough to overcome Rampage’s power combined with 45 fights worth of high-level experience?

With so much on the line for both men—but Rampage getting closer to being out of the game forever—this one will have to go to Jackson. Even though Lawal is only two years younger than his opponent, he has a lot less miles on his chassis and could easily eke out another tournament or two. For Rampage, the end of the line is nearing, and he is too proud to just be another journeyman fighter. If the world wants to see the best Rampage ever, it would be wise to watch this fight on Saturday night. Rampage is going to come out all business, put his hands on Mo a lot in the opening round, force a lot of takedown attempts which will be subsequently stuffed, and grind out a decision victory.

Rampage by unanimous decision.