Dustin Jacoby plans on making “King Mo” stand with him at Bellator 123. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Dustin Jacoby makes his Bellator MMA debut next weekend, and he’s going right in at the top. His first fight for the organization is a showdown with former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammad Lawal at Bellator 123.
Jacoby is both a UFC and Glory veteran. Over the past two years he has concentrated entirely on professional kickboxing, but he made his return to MMA in triumphant fashion on Aug. 22 with a stoppage win over Lucas Lopes late in the first round of their fight at Titan Fighting Championships 29.
The fact that the win came by way of head-kick KO has not gone unnoticed, and Jacoby himself says it was no coincidence. He credits his Glory adventures with sharpening his striking skill, and he is looking to deliver the same treatment to “King Mo” on Friday.
“After doing kickboxing and then watching all these MMA fights I have noticed that the leg kicks are wide open in MMA. That’s something I sort of already knew but never really felt it and saw it the way that I do now,” he said. “The leg kicks are wide open and that set up the head kick in my last fight. I hit him with seven or eight hard low kicks, then faked a low kick and came up top with the head kick.
“It’s definitely been beneficial -- I went and did kickboxing for a year and half and then my first fight back in MMA I win by way of head kick KO? It has definitely paid off.”
Lawal narrowly missed out on representing the U.S. in wrestling at the 2008 Olympics, which prompted his entry into MMA. As a former NCAA Division I standout for Oklahoma State, it’s no surprise that wrestling is his key strength.
Aside from that wrestling pedigree, Jacoby says he doesn’t see much in Lawal to write home about.
“He’s a talented guy and a former world champion, but when I watch him fight I don’t see anything really special. It’s not like I have to worry about really good jiu-jitsu. He does have power in his hands, but I have some height on him,” Jacoby said.
“Obviously the main thing I have to worry about is the wrestling. He’s got those blast-doubles and singles and he’s a really good ground-and-pound guy. I feel like if I can defend a couple of takedowns -- hell even if he takes me down, which will probably happen, I have been taken down before -- I will be fighting my heart out to scramble to my feet.
“I will transition with him and maybe catch him with something in the scramble. Honestly, I feel like if I stuff a couple of takedowns or get right back up, then he has to come into my world and stand up with me. That’s when I am really going to try and utilize those kicks.”
Having only recently returned to MMA from kickboxing, Jacoby hasn’t been working off his back much over the past two years. That has been a focus in the recent training camps though, and Jacoby doesn’t feel he has much to worry about in that department.
“I don’t have a bad game off my back. Obviously I prefer being up on my feet or on top, but I drill jiu-jitsu four times a week. When I am put on my back I work well to get back on my feet. So I think this will be a good fight -- high-paced and exciting,” he says. “I am looking to stuff some takedown attempts and tire him out and force him to stand with me. I feel great man -- fully prepared and confident. Training has been going well and I am right where I need to be.”
Jacoby realizes that he must adopt a different approach in MMA than what he utilizes in the kickboxing ring.
“In kickboxing you and I can be standing up a foot away from each and just going for it, fully loading up on everything. In MMA you can’t do that, you will get taken down or you’re gonna clinch up into a 50-50. The level of power you throw and the length of your combinations has to be different,” he said. “That’s something we have been working on, striking and moving. The two sports are different but I feel pretty prepared, like I haven’t missed a beat.”
Facing such a big name in his Bellator debut doesn’t daunt Jacoby. On the contrary, he sees victory as the stepping stone to huge opportunity. It would be hard not to insert Jacoby into Bellator’s 205-pound title picture if he takes Lawal out.
“I would think so, beating a former world champion should put me up there in the title picture. It catapults me right up there. Or the last guy he fought was [Quinton] “Rampage” [Jackson], so that fight could happen,” he says.
“Me and a buddy were looking at the roster and there’s a ton of good fights there for me, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Regardless of what happens at Bellator 123, Jacoby says that he isn’t done with kickboxing. Along with MMA, that sport now has a special place in his heart, and he sees himself as a two-sport combat athlete.
“I absolutely love MMA, it’s what I first started doing. Though I do love kickboxing, it was something that came to me rather than me going to it,” said Jacoby, who was a late stand-in for the Road to Glory tournament. “MMA was initially the main goal and the main focus. Now I am back, and I’m really happy to be here and in this kind of spotlight,” he says.
“But I love both. When I started MMA I absolutely loved it and then when I went into Glory via winning that tournament I absolutely loved kickboxing. So I would say now it is whatever is flavor of the week.”