King Mo - Lowering The Bar
Last night at Bellator 106, we saw their very expensive and heavily promoted golden boy Muhammed Lawal get beaten by Emanuel Newton for the second time in 8 months. While the fight itself was rather ugly and hard to watch, the setup for such a quick rematch could be described as "utter bullshit" even if you were being kind.
But first, lets turn the clock back almost 2 years.
In January of 2012, the man known more commonly as King Mo knocked out Lorenz Larkin in what would turn out to be his final fight in Strikeforce. Unfortunately when the drug test results came back, Mo was found to have the steroid Drostanolone in his system, his win was turned into a No Contest and was suspended for 12 months by the NSAC.
At a hearing in March he was able to get his suspension knocked down to 9 months, but thanks to some subsequent comments he made on twitter he found himself no longer employed by Zuffa. His luck got even worse over the new few months as he wound up needing several knee surgeries and had to battle with a staph infection at one point.
He eventually wound up signing a contract with Bellator and they instantly began promoting him above and beyond any other fighter on their roster. Not only that, but he was going to make history by wrestling for TNA and competing in MMA at the same time. Viacom had what they thought was a new cash cow and they wanted everyone in the 18-35 year old demographic to know about it.
NOTE: I haven't seen anything Mo or Quinton have done in TNA to date, but from what I hear it's gone over about as well as an extremely loud wet fart at your sister's wedding.
Bellator's season 8 LHW tournament was setup in such a way that the final was a foregone conclusion. King Mo would easily run through his side while Babalu Sorbral would do the same on his. Mo would crush Babalu to become the tournament champion and eventually claim their LHW title, thus giving Bellator a champion to help promote the brand instead of the brand promoting a single fighter.
Only the MMA Gods saw exactly what Bellator was up to and said "Oh really? Well check this out..."
Babalu was knocked out in the first round of his quarterfinal fight against heavy underdog Mikhail Zayats. A setback from a promoters standpoint since the final wouldn't be as marketable, but at least it would provide an easy highlight reel win for Mo. That was their plan at least.
In the semifinals Lawal would meet another heavy underdog in Newton. In what was expected to be a squash match, in the first round Mo found himself knocked out from a spinning backfist before landing in Newton's loving embrace as he crashed to the canvas. Mo and his fans called it a fluke, his detractors called it the funniest thing ever.
While Newton went on to win the tournament and a future title shot, Bellator was forced to go back to the drawing board with Mo. After investing a lot of time and money into promoting him as their next big thing, he had literally just fallen flat on his face, so they had to come up with some way to salvage the situation. Their solution? Lower the bar.
Before their next season started, Bellator announced that the tournament would be altered, instead of having 8 fighters it would feature only 4. The advantages from this change was two fold. One, it would reduce the chances of Mo making an ass out of himself again. Two, it would allow Bellator to quickly rebuild Mo's reputation and fast track him to a title shot.
Bellator set up this abbreviated tournament in hopes of having Mo and Sorbral meet in the final, but it was not to be. Babalu was once again knocked out in the semifinals while Mo tore through Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe as he was expected to do and claimed his prize.
All while this was going on, Emanuel Newton waited around for his title shot, which would never come.
In late summer when it was announced that Bellator was going to hold their first PPV with Quinton Jackson and Tito Ortiz headlining, they also said that their reigning LHW champion Attila Végh was injured and unable to fight. Despite Attila's camp denying such reports and saying he was healthy and ready to go, Bellator decided to create an interim LHW title and Newton would have to rematch none other than King Mo for the chance to claim it.
I'm sure this was a flawless plan in Bellator's eyes. Lawal would get a chance to avenge his embarrassing loss to Newton (probably in devastating fashion) and they could wrap some gold around his waist and finally promote him as a champion. All Mo had to do was win and everything would be wine and roses from then on out.
Instead of any of that happening, fans were "treated" to 25 minutes of gassing out, sloppy brawling, and numerous missed spin kicks. Neither fighter looked good or even decent, but by far Mo looked like the worse of the two. After the first round Mo had little to offer to Newton and Mo's corner had even less to offer to Mo himself, when he told them he was tired all they did was repeat "No you're not, you're not tired". After the final horn and the score cards were read, it was a lopsided decision in Newton's favor and Mo was shocked and surprised by it.
I don't know if age has caught up to Mo before it should have, or if he's really bought into his own hype and bullshit and thinks he'll always win just because he's "King Mo". I think it's clear he has seriously regressed as a fighter since his time in Strikeforce and if he wants to actually compete at the highest level, then he needs to drop the ego and get a new camp that won't just tell him he's the best in the world.
It will be interesting to see what happens with both Mo and Bellator in the next few months. Will Mo say "Yeah I lost fair and square, and I need to make some serious changes because I hate to lose", or will he once again make excuses and lob 3rd grade level insults at Newton? As for Bellator, will they try yet again to promote Mo as the next big thing and just pretend he didn't lose to the same guy twice? Will they lower the bar even further so Mo won't stumble over it? Will they just crown him interim interim LHW champ since he's been unable to claim a title legitimately? Considering how shady they've been this year, I wouldn't put it past them.
But no matter what happens, this continuing circus should be highly entertaining to MMA fans, even if it's for all the wrong reasons.