Linton Vassell will be a significant underdog against “King Mo.” | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
According to most pundits, Phil Davis and Muhammed Lawal are the favorites to win Bellator’s light heavyweight tournament on Saturday.
It seems as if Linton Vassell is an afterthought, cannon fodder for Lawal, whom the Brit will meet in the first round.
A well-rounded fighter in every sense of the phrase, “The Swarm” quietly sits back and sees the quotes and predictions. It doesn’t bother him in the least, but it does motivate him to prove the non-believers wrong.
“It’s just people’s opinions, isn’t it?” Linton said. “Everyone has their favorite fighter. You can’t expect everyone to be rooting for you. People are going to pick Mo, people are going to pick Davis, people are going to pick Emanuel and people will pick me. It doesn’t really matter to me because I just need to prove that I’m here to stay.
“I’m not worried about numbers, but it does kind of egg me on to train harder and show people what I’m about,” he added.
Vassell plans on showing that he is much better than people believe. The biggest underdog in terms of the odds to win the tournament, Vassell isn’t planning on playing it safe or leaving the fight in the judges’ hands. He is an Englishman fighting on American soil against a popular American fighter, but when asked about it, Vassell says the scorecards won’t even come into the equation.
“I’m getting in there and trying to finish it,” declared. “I’m not looking to go in there and try to win on points. I am not going to leave it to the judges. I need to make sure I finish the first fight and make it to the finals.”
It would be a sizeable upset if Vassell not only gets to the finals, but wins the bracket en route to a title shot against either champion Liam McGeary or Tito Ortiz. Vassell, who admitted that he originally thought the tournament would be fought over the course of several months and not on the same day, said he doesn’t care about which man holds the Bellator light heavyweight crown when he prevails.
But what does concern him are the usual concerns about competing multiple times in the same day: fatigue and injury. Vassell said his plan is to not allow either to happen and if he fights his fight, those concerns will be all for nothing. “There’s always the thought that you might get injured in a win, but once you get in there and start fighting, that goes away,” he said. “So there is the threat of getting inured but I’m confident that won’t happen. I’m planning on getting the win in the first or second round [anyway] and taking less damage to get into the second fight.”
As confident as Vassell is entering the Bellator "Dynamite" bracket, he understands the task that’s ahead of him in toppling “King Mo.”
“He’s a good fighter. He’s been around a while and he’s won titles, he’s tough,” he said. “But I’m going in there and I’m going to finish the fight. It’s going to come down to who wants it more and I am definitely hungrier. I’m going to stop what he’s trying to do and make him uncomfortable in every position. I am not going to allow it to go a decision.”
Vassell also doesn’t think Lawal will use only his tremendous wrestling pedigree. He expects to be triumphant in a pure mixed martial arts match, a fight that will have everything, including the upset.
“I think you’ll see some scrambling, some takedowns, some ground-and-pound and you’ll see some striking,” he said. “He’s going to come and bring it himself; he’s not going to sit back and let me do whatever I want. It’s going to be an exciting fight. But I will win.”