Melvin Manhoef wants Bellator gold. | Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Melvin Manhoef has a highlight reel full of spectacular knockout victories.
Over the course of a professional career that began in 1995, the fighter known as “No Mercy” has finished the likes of Evangelista Santos (twice), Kazushi Sakuraba, Mark Hunt, Kazuo Misaki and Denis Kang, to name a few. Despite such credentials, the 38-year-old Dutchman sometimes looks back and thinks he could have done better.
His loss to Robbie Lawler at Strikeforce “Miami” , in particular, stands out as a burning reminder of what might have been. In that bout, which took place more than four years ago, Manhoef had his opponent reeling with a brutal diet of leg kicks. Despite the one-sided nature of the affair, it only took one blow to alter the bout, as Lawler put Manhoef out with a single, powerful overhand right. It was Lawler’s only real significant offense of the fight, but it was more than enough.
“Every loss has been very hard for me, but there were moments that I thought I could really win fights and didn't. The best example is [Lawler] in Strikeforce. This is a loss that was difficult. I fought with a broken rib and no one knows that -- I don't want to talk about that --but he won fair and square because he knocked me out,” Manhoef said. “But this kind of loss is what I have in all my losses. I was beating the guy, but then I lost on a choke or an armbar. These kind of fights are very hard to live with.”
Since then, Lawler has moved to welterweight and reinvented himself in the UFC. He narrowly missed defeating Johny Hendricks for the Las Vegas-based promotion’s 170-pound strap in March and should be on track for a rematch with the champ following a five-round triumph over Matt Brown at UFC on Fox 12.
Seeing Lawler’s current run of success makes his own loss to the American Top Team standout all the more painful, but Manhoef can also see the silver lining in his former foe’s resurgence.
“Robbie Lawler is considered one of the top guys in the sport now and I was really beating him up, so it's very frustrating. But it is what it is – this is fighting,” Manhoef said. “He knows the fight couldn't exist much longer because I would tear his leg out or something would happen. I should've won that fight if I only used my head a little more. That's why he's one of the best in the world now, because he won the fight and I didn't.
“Of course there is some positive in it though. I see the guys that Robbie Lawler is fighting now and I think I could do the same, or maybe better. For me it's a satisfying thought that I gave him such a hard time.”
In addition to Strikeforce, Manhoef has competed for organizations such as Dream, K-1, One FC and KSW. Earlier this summer, he signed a deal with Bellator MMA. It’s a move that has given the Mike’s Gym representative extra incentive to succeed.
“... I want to show America who Melvin Manhoef is, and I think Bellator is the perfect organization to let people enjoy my skills,” he said. “That drives me a lot, because I want to be the champion of Bellator. This is my goal.”
Manhoef’s promotional debut will come on Friday night, when he meets Doug Marshall in the Bellator 125 headliner at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. Marshall, who owns 12 KO/TKO wins among his 18 professional triumphs, figures to engage Manhoef in the type of fight he likes best.
“I like Doug Marshall's fighting style because he's a stand-up fighter, and he likes to bang. If you have two guys who like to bang, it's gonna be a war,” Manhoef said. “So I want my Bellator debut to be a fight that people can discuss and talk about for years, like the ‘Cyborg’ fight.”
Not surprisingly, Manhoef believes he will have the advantage if Marshall elects to trade with him.
“His best chance is to get in on a lucky punch because I think my striking is a little bit better, because I've been doing striking for almost 20 years,” he said. “I don't know how long Doug Marshall has been doing it, but he has big KO power and I don't want to get that from him. I think my punches are quicker and more technical though. That's just what I think.”
More often than not, when Manhoef’s hand is raised at the end of a fight, it is because of a spectacular finish. All told, 26 of Manhoef’s 28 career wins have come by way of knockout or technical knockout. It is a feeling unlike any other, he says.
“You cannot describe the feeling you get when you knock somebody out. It's a real powerful feeling. I feel very, very powerful. I feel untouchable. Like … superior,” he said. “Every time I knock somebody out, I just want to do it more. I really feel like somebody who has a ton of power that they can switch on and off.”