As we all know, "King Mo" takes on Gegard Mousasi for the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight championship live on CBS. Mo, the brash upstart, told me this is a match he requested "for a reason" and believes the current champion to be deeply overrated.
Is he right? This could be all be a foolish gamble, but even Mo wouldn't disagree that gamble is the best way to describe this entire effort. Mo is betting big he can dramatically shake up his status in MMA and the light heavyweight division overall. Beating Mousasi means a shuffling the rankings, a launching of his career and grandiose promises made good. But the backfire of forcing the issue of the fight, discounting Mousasi and losing in front of millions is more than a bitter pill to swallow.
How can he be so confident about such an uphill climb? Mo could be wrong, but he certainly doesn't lack information or insight. I spoke to Mo about his contender status, not signing with the UFC, Gegard Mousasi's weaknesses, his relationship with the fans and so much more on MMA Nation. Listen to the whole thing here:
Or, enjoy this small portion of the conversation. On evaluating GSP's performance at UFC 111
King Mo: I think GSP controlled the fight real well. I think he was looking to use his jiu-jitsu too much and trying to finish him. I think Hardy did a great job in not taking any damage. Obviously he didn't do a good job in takedown defense, but I'm thinking that he just threw takedown defense training out the window and just accepted the fact that he would be taken down. But GSP did a g great job in controlling the fight. It might not have been what the fans wanted to see, but a win is a win. And by the time he fights again, everybody will have forgotten that fight and he'll be back to his normal self.
Thomas: You complimented on some of Dan Hardy's skills here. He has a good defensive guard. Cleary he's a threat enough on his feet so that they tactically chose not to engage him there. But how could somebody like you or Daniel Cormier help Hardy? Do you think he is trainable enough so that in a rematch you'd give him a chance of stopping the takedowns of GSP?
King Mo: Yeah, sure. It would take time and a lot of work. Most people in MMA have terrible takedowns and takedown defense. So it would take some time.
On saying wrestling in MMA is subpar:
King Mo: When high-level wrestlers come into the game, they get used to wrestling guys that have no wrestling background and it's so easy for them that their skills deteriorate. Guys like Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Matt Lindland, and Dan Henderson. They stop working with high-level wrestlers to sharpen their skills.
Thomas: Ok, well to that point. You've mentioned it before about Josh Koscheck being a former collegiate national champion but his skills are deteriorating. You just mentioned it with Couture, Hughes, Lindland and Henderson. Are you worried about your skills deteriorating?
King Mo: No, because I train with top level guys still. I train with Daniel Cormier, Kevin Jackson. I have options. I'm not gonna abandon my wrestling. I'm gonna bring guys in who I can drill with and bring guys in who I can wrestle with. I'm gonna keep my base high.
On the difference in freestyle, international wrestling and collegiate wrestling that makes the former superior for MMA:
King Mo: It depends on what type of fighter you are. If you're a guy like Frankie Edgar who relies on their scrambles, collegiate wrestling will do you good. But if you're a power guy like Brock Lesnar, Daniel Cormier, or myself, even though Lesnar didn't wrestle freestyle, freestyle fits us more. You can tell the difference in guys with solid technique and guys that are scramblers. Ben Askren and Phil Davis are scramblers. People like me and Cormier will power through you. Kevin Jackson will power through you. As far a stylistically, freestyle is more about taking your opponent down. Collegiate is more about controlling your guy on the ground, which is good for jiu-jitsu. You have to demonstrate much higher level of technique in freestyle. I think it is much better for MMA.
On his relationship with MMA fans:
King Mo: I think a lot of them are just ignorant. Some get it and some don't. I've learned not to believe the hype being an athlete my whole life. I've wrestled some of the best wrestlers in the world and never listened to the hype. But in MMA, you win two or three fights in a row, and you're the man. If you're an outgoing guy and not the in the UFC, you're in trouble. It just depends on who the fans gravitate to. They have their mind made up about you regardless. I can't do anything about it but win.
On Mousasi's guard:
King Mo: He's flat on his back. He doesn't have any great hip movement. His hand positioning is terrible. His ground and pound is good, but it's easy to ground and pound someone when you're in the right position.
Off of his back he's pretty much submitted everyone he's supposed to submit other than Denis Kang. Denis Kang put himself in the position. It's not like [Mousasi] set up anything elaborate to get the triangle choke.
On what Mousasi does well:
King Mo: I think he prepares well and he fights at his pace. That's it.
He's solid and fights at his pace. Everyone is like "Mo, watch out for his stand-up because he has world class kickboxing." Well, I've yet to see him win any K-1 tournaments. He's competed in K-1 once. So did Vince Phillips. So did Francois Botha. So did Butterbean.
And they're like "Oh, watch out for his hands! His hands are so great!" Well, what'd he do? He won a national tournament in Netherlands who puts out a bunch of great boxers?
"Oh, watch out for his jiu-jitsu!" Who has he submitted? I like Denis Kang. He's a great fighter, but mentally he makes mistakes. Denis Kang got tapped out by Alan Belcher the kickboxer."