Emanuel Newton says he’s ready to beat Mo Lawal again. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The day after Emanuel Newton shocked the world by knocking out Muhammed Lawal at Bellator 90, “The Hardcore Kid” began mentally preparing himself for the inevitable rematch.
Although Newton would eventually go on to win Bellator’s Season 8 light heavyweight tournament to assure himself a shot at reigning 205-pound champion Attila Vegh, he knew there was unfinished business with “King Mo.”
For one, the promotion had a lot invested in Lawal’s success as it made the transition from MTV2 to Spike TV at the beginning of 2013. In addition to a conference call announcing the former Strikeforce champion’s plans to do crossover duty as a mixed martial artist/professional wrestler, Bellator and Spike devoted an entire primetime special to Lawal entitled “King Mo Unrivaled.”
Then, there was the nature of Newton’s victory. His spinning back-fist knockout of Lawal is a candidate for both “Knockout of the Year” and “Upset of the Year,” but many believe that Newton would have difficulty duplicating the feat. Lawal himself has mocked the maneuver, dismissing it as “feminine” in a promotional video released by Bellator.
“I beat Newton 99 out of 100 times....Not many people throw spinning s--t as they’re running,” Lawal said.
Things began to fall into place when Vegh, who Newton had lost a split decision against at Bellator 72, suffered an injury and was unable to defend his belt in a timely fashion. Instead, the promotion booked an interim title bout between Newton and Lawal at was expected to be Bellator’s first pay-per-view offering. Newton was hardly surprised.
“It wasn’t something where people were like, ‘Man I want to see [Newton and Vegh] fight again.’ But with Mo, people can say it’s a fluke. They can say Emanuel just landed a lucky one,” Newton recently told Sherdog.com. “Mo is a rising star, let’s try this again. They [Bellator] invested a lot in Mo -- they weren’t expecting this to happen. I’m sure they want to give him another shot, and that’s what the fans want to see.”
Lawal had to earn his opportunity by defeating Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe to capture Bellator’s 2013 Summer Series tournament, and the winner of Newton-Lawal is expected to face Vegh at a later date. However, an injury to Tito Ortiz ruined Saturday’s original main event and forced Bellator officials to scrap the pay-per-view plans. Instead, the two light heavyweights will square off as part of a free Bellator 106 card that airs on Spike beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
The format change means little to Newton. What’s important is that both he and Lawal are healthy and ready to fight.
“When I go up to fight, I don’t even see the cameras. I don’t pay attention to any of that,” he said. “I’m just going to go in there and smash Mo once again.”
Over the course of his 29-bout career, Newton has never known as a knockout machine. The finish of Lawal was just his third stoppage via strikes. Eight of his triumphs have come by way of submission, 10 more have gone the distance. That said, Newton believes he was getting the better of Lawal before the unorthodox strike landed, and he says he has the tools to get the job done again -- even if it requires different methods this time around.
“I think he was definitely overlooking me,” Newton said. “That’s just Mo. He can be cocky and arrogant and it bit him in the ass. At the same time, even when he was trying to put his striking together I was still peppering him and landing more strikes than he landed.
“You’re gonna see more awkwardness, more creativity and more technique from me this next fight. I’m gonna be the faster, stronger and more technical fighter. I’m expecting a different fight but I’m ready for whatever he’s gonna throw at me.”
Even if their second meeting looks nothing like the first, Newton would like to point out that his initial victory over Lawal was far from fortuitous. He disputes Lawal’s notion that he was running when he landed the spinning-back fist that would wind up on SportCenter’s Top 10 Plays back in February.
“I knew exactly where he was. It was just an awkwardly thrown strike. That’s how I am. I can throw anything from any position anywhere in the ring and it can put you out on your feet,” he said.
“After that, it just made me realize how versatile I am in my striking and how technical I am. It’s not like I don’t know how to wrestle. I know how to wrestle too. What he’s expecting to happen isn’t going to happen for him.”