Strikeforce has some difficult decisions ahead of them, and the recent incident regarding Bobby Lashley's opponent in Florida for the January 30th Strikeforce: Miami event isn't going to be their biggest hurdle this year. Scott Coker and company will have their hands full in trying to figure out who Dan Henderson will fight after Jake Shields, when Alistair Overeem will actually defend his title, and how they will push Fedor Emelianenko into the hearts of millions. Stressful is the word that comes to mind.
One of the most difficult decisions that Strikeforce will need to make in the upcoming year is who Gegard Mousasi and Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal will battle next. Rumors have been swirling that Strikeforce may actually pit the two fighters against one another on the next CBS event, but Lawal has stated that he hasn't spoken to Strikeforce yet about his next opponent. Fedor is rumored to be fighting sometime before May, and it's likely that Strikeforce will lump Gegard Mousasi onto the same card due to his contract and management team/co-promotion sponsor M-1 Global. That doesn't leave a significant amount of time to weigh the pros and cons.
But I'll try to help out Scott Coker in any way I can. After all, he's created a Melvin Manhoef vs. Robbie Lawler showdown that I have been hoping to see for the last two years. I might as well offer some wisdom:
Scenario 1: Strikeforce schedules Gegard Mousasi vs. "King Mo" Lawal: I'm not a fan of this match-up actually happening this soon. It might be intriguing if Mousasi tries to gain weight and take on Lawal at heavyweight, but his thirty-one career fights in comparison to Lawal's six career bouts doesn't inspire confidence in a Lawal victory.
Lawal's striking would likely be so overly deficient in comparison to Mousasi's stand-up that it would become a fight heavily reliant on Lawal's outstanding wrestling ability. While I think he has the power and ground and pound to be menacing for Mousasi, I think there are better opponents out there for Lawal right now that could provide a test to those perceived areas of excellence and his weaknesses.
The only real upside is that Strikeforce can, for lack of a better term, blow their load on this superfight now, and then rebuild the loser back up with featured fights while the winner takes on other talent. The problem is that Mousasi really has noone else to fight unless Dan Henderson moves up in weight after the Jake Shields bout.
Scenario 2: Strikeforce finds alternative opponents for both fighters, features them on CBS as a build-up fight: I'd rather see this idea put into play as the best option for Strikeforce. The only catch is that they must allow Lawal's personality to be seen by the casual fanbase by showing King Mo's eccentric entrances. Most of his fights have been at heavyweight, so I'd like to see Lawal put into a difficult match-up with a light heavyweight who has some speed to strike and potentially deal with his wrestling ability.
Jeff Monson has mentioned dropping to 205 pounds, and I think he's legitimately a safe fight unless Lawal gets lazy. Renato "Babalu" Sobral is also an interesting step-up in competition, and I actually think that's almost a perfect notch up the food chain for him. Strikeforce might not be able to secure those fights, and we could see some sort of heavyweight tilt with someone like Kharitonov or whoever else they can dig up, which would be a bit disappointing.
The only big problem with this scenario is that Mousasi would have slim options. Would they bring in the winner of Prangley/Amousouu? Could they negotiate for Arona to step into the Strikeforce cage? Does Antwain Britt deserve a shot? I know what you're thinking... I'm not excited about those names. This leads me to the third option
Scenario 3: Mousasi waits for Henderson, Lawal battles it out for contention in the meantime: I'm definitely not opposed to this third scenario. It somewhat assumes Henderson will defeat Shields without being hurt too significantly as his victory would give him some more springboard as a drawing power for Strikeforce, but technically -- Strikeforce could push the whole "Henderson is really a light heavyweight" angle if Shields somehow beats him. In any case, Mousasi sits on the shelf, battles it out in K-1 for half the year while some of the other stars get their glory on national television in the Spring.
Lawal fights somebody who is a legitimate opponent at either heavyweight or light heavyweight, preferably light heavyweight, and Mousasi takes on Henderson in a summer or fall CBS showdown. If Strikeforce was smart, they'd book Lawal twice, getting him solid experience against good competition and ultimately proving he's the consensus #2 in the light heavyweight division.
These are just a few of the scenarios that Coker could roll with when it comes to deciding on who both men will fight, or if they'll fight each other. But it surely won't be an easy decision. Most fans are under the impression that it would be too early for Lawal to take on such a talent as Gegard Mousasi, and I would tend to agree with that assessment.