Bellator's lightning rod Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal earned the decision on all three judges cards over Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson to put to rest his ill-will at losing their 2014 fight by the same margin.
The entertaining brawl in Chicago went three rounds, though there was the sense that five rounds might have made it more conclusive. Five round, non-title headline fights may be ushered in, sometime in the future, said Bellator MMA CEO Scott Coker afterwards. But not yet.
There was little time for Lawal to plot his next move. It was announced in the combat arena at the All State Center that next up would be a challenge against newly-signed Ryan Bader, a free agent after twenty fights and ten years in the UFC, on the Madison Square Garden mega-card on June 24.
The American citizen of Nigerian descent, who calls himself "a moneyweight fighter", insisted that he has ambitions to win Bellator titles at both light-heavy (205 lbs), and heavyweight (205+ to 265 lbs).
Lawal, who was the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, won 29-28 on all three judges' scorecards in a heavyweight main event at Bellator 175. Jackson was 41 lbs heavier than the victor - at 253 lbs - when he stepped onto the scales on Thursday at around 11am.
The first round played out according to plan for Lawal, an accomplished wrestler who pressured Jackson and then took him down. But the twist came in the second round with Jackson changing his body position, and staying on his feet, landed several big punches which rocked Lawal. The third was Lawal shifting his game between attack and positional fighting. But it was close.
“I tried to stick to the game plan, but everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face,” Lawal said. “In the second round, I got hit a few times. One time i was cross-eyed. I was seeing like four Quintons.” That can't have been any fun...
Also on the Chicago card, rising star of Duke Roufus's stable Emmanuel Sanchez won all three rounds against Marcos Galvao, having missed featherweight by three pounds. "I need to go back and study it, because it was a real kick in the teeth," said the deeply ambitious fighter.
Heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov knocked out Chase Gormley deep into the first round of their entertaining brawl, and former Israeli special services soldier Noad Lahat submitted Lloyd Carter in the second round of a match-up fought at catchweight, 148lbs.
Another rising star, Steve Kozola, also looked impressive with a 28-second KO victory over Jake Roberts. Kozola was quick to make a statement with his words as well as his fists. "I’m here to show that I’m a force to be reckoned with here, and people are going to fear me. I’m going to be a champion here at Bellator MMA," said the 8-0 lightweight fighter from Temeluca, CA. "I want to fight in London and take care of business there, and if Dillon Danis (Conor MacGregor's jiu jitsu sparring partner) can make 155, I’ll mess him up."
Mo Lawal will face Ryan Bader next at Madison Square Garden on June 24
Here's the scorecard - all three judges see every round the same...
King Mo Lawal gets revenge over Rampage Jackson 29-28 on all three judges' cards
Right decision. But it was close. Five rounds would have been better...
Right decision 29-28 for MoLawal over Rampage Jackson but very close Fight pic.twitter.com/aq6RFhu8jk— Gareth A Davies (@GarethADaviesDT) April 1, 2017
Ugh... 3rd and final round ! Would have liked to have seen 5 round fight...
They are now cheering for Rampage in the arena. Lawal looking to get Rampage down, elbows thrown, being checked by ref Big John McCarthy... this third round is so close after 2:30, he has got more strikes away... they are booing Lawal's wrestling grind. In the final 90 seconds they swinging for the fences... Rampage back against the arena wall... round swinging back to Mo Lawal.
I have just given it to King Mo. But a 10-10 round not out of the question from judges.
I have this 29-28 for Mo Lawal... and I'd watch a third fight.
Wow... second round and Rampage lands with his left hook and King Mo in trouble...
Mo Lawal getting in and looking to get Rampage down in the second Rd - 10-9 ML after 1 rd pic.twitter.com/VBbIHvCUjK— Gareth A Davies (@GarethADaviesDT) April 1, 2017
Rampage rescued that second round. 19-19 now. Great flurry from Rampage and that dangerous right hook...
Round 1: Rampage vs King Mo
King Mo ambitious with his striking and then gets the takedown and grinds out round one result. But Rampage left hook always dangerous. At 41lbs heavier, Rampage lot slower. But he'll always be a warrior...
... and Mo Lawal
Great time this week interviewing Rampage Jackson
It's time... Rampage Jackson vs King Mo Lawal. Repeat or revenge.
Sergei Kharitonov spells out the gameplan tonight after his victory
"The fight strategy tonight was just to be safe and not risk too much early, because the main goal was to win this fight with patience. I was actually waiting for Chase to go to the ground and get the takedown, but he didn't so it was a stand-up fight and that's my game, so I was comfortable and able to do what I do best."
Sanchez now dominating Galvao...
Punctuating his attacks, Sanchez is so entertaining. One sided fight but Galvao SOOO tough. He's taken lot of punishment. Clear 30-27 for me after three rounds for Sanchez. Galvao git him diwb with 12 seconds to go...
Tough first round for Sanchez...
Marcos Galvao showing all his experience and wily skills there... not for nothing was he a world bantamweight champion. Sanchez certainly not having it all his own way, even in the striking., Galvao wants this fight on the floor ASAP, as we play out the second stanza... Sanchez 10-9 after 1.
Here's Noad Lahat on his triumph over Lloyd Carter
It took a little longer. I thought I would finish him in the first round. He came to throw, he came to survive so it took a little longer but I still had to finish."
More on tonight’s fight:
“I knew I had him because I heard him taking the shots and I heard him quitting so I knew I needed to put the pressure. That’s why in the first-round I didn’t go for the choke, I had the back but I switched and went to the elbows because I had to cook him a little bit. “
On what is next: “Next for me is New York baby. The biggest Jewish Israeli community in the united states. This is my spot in the state. June 24th is next for me.”
Who he wants to fight next:
“I don’t care who I fight, I just want to be on the card. For me it’s about me. Whoever wants to dance, just ask me.”
Emmanuel Sanchez arriving ... instinct is this kid is a real talent... up against former world champ Marcos Galvao
Steve Kozola on his great performance
I felt supremely confident going in. I knew I did the proper preparation and put in the work and time to make it happen. I have the right coaches and people behind me and I have the right mindset. I’m here to represent the United States, God, and my team – Team Quest, Oceanside Jiu Jitsu, Manny Torres Boxing. I’m here to show that I’m a force to be reckoned with here, and people are going to fear me. I’m going to be a champion here at Bellator MMA. I want to fight in London and take care of business there, and if Dillon Danis can make 155, I’ll mess him up.
Here's the Madison Square Garden card in technicolor
So Bellator just reminding us of the terrific June 24 event at the iconic Madison Square Garden
Up next the very talented Emmanuel Sanchez against Marcos Galvao
Was with Sanchez yesterday when he failed to make weight by 3 pounds, he was deeply upset. But I do think he's going to be a great fan favourite in MMA...
Wow - brutal knockout at the close of first round by heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov over Chase Gormley
You know what, that was a rough end for Gormley but he had a moment there...
So that's the kind of thing that happens when two heavyweights stand and swing. In case you're new here. #Bellator175— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 1, 2017
Check this ...
Quick chat between fights with Douglas Lima - the Bellator welterweight champ - a beast. I would love to see Paul Daley fight...again
Noad Lahat gets second round rear naked submission over Lloyd Carter
Bellator's new signings...Ryan Bader, Lorenz Larkin...
Lloyd Carter and Noad Lahat ... up now
There is a fairly sizeable height differential between these two... Lahat is an ex Israeli special forces soldier... Lahat just won the first round and is favourite here in this featherweight fight on the main card...
So I've been doing the rounds... Chael Sonnen - the Elvis of MMA - Felice Herrig, the master Royce Gracie, and The MAN... Fedor E is here...(always in a tracksuit)
The crew at Bellator MMA in media row looking after us tonight....
Wow - explosive start to the main card - Steve Kozola - 8th finish in 30/40 seconds KO...for me
Steve Kozola introduced himself to me in the fight hotel this week in Chicago - and there was the feeling that this was a special young man. He just showed why against Jake Roberts...
Here's the Bellator MMA champs displayed in the arena...
Yep... it's on fire in here...
More scenes from Bellator MMA 175 in Chicago...
View from my seat in what promises to be an exciting night... Picking Mo Lawal in the main event
No guns in here... do people really bring guns to fight events ?
No guns in here ... do people really bring them ?? it's a fight night ! pic.twitter.com/vQ584Wp1op— Gareth A Davies (@GarethADaviesDT) March 31, 2017
We are underway... and the atmosphere is building at the All State Arena
Their first encounter created rivers of bad blood but 'King' Mo Lawal and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson have ramped it up in the build-up to their second contest here on Friday, March 31 at the Allstate Arena just northwest of Chicago.
By their standards, the face off yesterday, 100 floors up in the Willis Tower overlooking Chicago, was mild. But there was a tension between the two renowned fighters. Pride is at stake for Rampage; revenge - he believes he won the first fight - is in the mind of 'King Mo'.
When the two protagonists met at Bellator 120, Jackson left the combat arena with a controversial unanimous points victory. Now, almost three years later, former Pride and UFC superstar Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson will look to go up 2-0 on 'King' Mo Lawal in the main event of Bellator 175. Lawal believes he was robbed by the judges at 120.
He has vowed not to allow that happen the second time around. But this time they fight at heavyweight, not light-heavyweight. And Jackson is 40 pounds heavier than Lawal (Rampage weighed 253lbs and Mo Lawal 212lbs). Jackson has an epic highlight reel of action from his contests against some of the greats in MMA - a trilogy of fights with Wanderlei Silva, and against the likes of icons Chick Liddell and Dan Henderson - as well as appearing in a number of movie roles, including 'The A Team'.
Now 38, Jackson is looking to put a seal on what feels like unfinished business in his fifth appearance for Bellator. Lawal, meanwhile, is fresh from facing Mirko CroCop in Japan, going up to heavyweight for a fight with his nemesis, having won eight of his last ten fights, and insisting that Jackson will be humbled by him in this contest. It is set for a grudge fight of epic proportions, and in spite of the weight differential, Lawal says it will be a case of "technique and speed to handle weight and strength".
Also on the main card established Russian heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov faces US veteran Chase Gormley, there is a what is likely to be an all-action featherweight fight between Marcos Galvao and coach Duke Roufus's emerging star Emmanuel Sanchez, at lightweight Steve Kozolavs takes on Jake Roberts, while Noad Lahat, a former Israeli special forces soldier, meets Lloyd Carter at featherweight.
What they are saying:
Mo Lawal: I’m ready to go. All that talking in past is done. I’m ready to rumble. He's corny, he's lame. He needs a new material. He needs a ghostwriter. He's looking old and he's been training eating donuts. I don’t care. I don’t care about weight. I CHOSE to fight Heavyweight. I’m cool with that. I didn’t know know what I was fighting, they said 235 heavyweight, screw it. But, listen — you let yourself go. You fell off. You let yourself go. You fell off, man. You let yourself go. I seen you. You’re looking kinda fat and sloppy. You’re looking old man. You’re looking old. I’m fighting at Moneyweight, that’s the reason why I said Moneyweight, because I agreed to fight your fat a-- at heavyweight.
Rampage Jackson: King Mo’ wants to talk about my weight and thinks it will hurt my feelings. It ain’t no secret that I’m older and I have a thyroid problem and that it’s hard for me to lose weight. But I went and saw a specialist and my coaches and we decided to go to heavyweight. I wish I was fighting a banger, someone who wants to stand in there, not somebody who wants to hold you down and squeeze you for the judges. The crowd loses out on that; they want a rumble. I never asked to fight ‘King Mo'. He wanted this. I knew if I’d fight ‘King Mo’ again, it’d be a wrestling match. I’m a striker and everybody knows how my career went. I put on shows, I come to fight. I’m doing Bellator a favor by taking this fight with Mo. The MMA fans and media aren’t suckas, they’re not fools. They know a real rivalry when they see one. They know that ‘King Mo’ runs his mouth and I think most MMA fan want me to shut his mouth. King Mo’ is a very established wrestler in MMA. He has great ground-and-pound and out of a lot of people I fought, he’s got better takedowns. But I don’t ever put pressure on myself to finish him. I want to finish him but if it don’t come, I just want to get that 'W'.
The Bellator MMA 175 card:
First fight will be on at around 10pm UK, last fight 4am.
- Heavyweight Quinton Jackson vs.Muhammed Lawal
- Heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov vs.Chase Gormley
- Featherweight Marcos Galvao vs.Emmanuel Sanchez
- Lightweight Steve Kozolavs vs Jake Roberts
- Featherweight Noad Lahat vs.Lloyd Carter
Preliminary card (Spike.com)
- Welterweight Joaquin Buckley vs.Justin Patterson
- Heavyweight Adam Maciejewski vs.Prince McLean
- Lightweight Damian Norris vs.Tom Shoaff Light
- Heavyweight James Bochnoviv vs.Matt Paul Bantamweight
- Manny Vazquez vs.Nate Williams
- Lightweight Tim Cho vs.Joshua Hardwick
- Welterweight Tom Holder vs Josh Streaker
- Bantamweight Cory Galloway vs David Garcia
- Lightweight Brian Akins vs Mike DeLaVega
- Featherweight Asef Askar vs James Esposito
- Bantamweight Max Fuentes vs.Brandon Shelhart
Bellator MMA 175 airs in the UK on April 1 at 10pm.
Follow Gareth A Davies who will be writing a live blog from the event.