Muhammed Lawal’s tournament run was cut short on Saturday. | File photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It appeared that everything had fallen into place for a Phil Davis-Muhammed Lawal showdown in the finals of Bellator’s light heavyweight tournament on Saturday night.
However, the injury bug struck during the break between the semifinals and the finals, as “King Mo” was forced to withdraw from the fight due to a rib injury. Lawal was not present at the Bellator 142 post-fight press conference.
“When he went back there to get checked he said, ‘My rib hurts’ after the first fight,” Bellator President Scott Coker said. “They cleared him, but it started stiffening up. He tried to keep it loose, but he said he couldn’t even pick up his arm until about 30 minutes before the fight.”
Lawal defeated Linton Vassell via unanimous decision earlier in the evening. Per the tournament guidelines, Vassell would have been next in line to advance, but he too was unable to continue.
“After this fight I basically took some punches and was not medically cleared. But I was willing to fight,” Vassell said. “I think they messed up, to be fair. If I had won that fight, this wouldn’t be happening and I’d be in there regardless. A little bit of a mess up, but things happen for a reason.”
As a result, Francis Carmont, who defeated Anthony Ruiz in a reserve bout on the preliminary bill, was promoted to face Davis for a future light heavyweight title shot. “Mr. Wonderful” prevailed in short order in the matchup of UFC veterans, as he knocked out Carmont with a left hook and follow-up punches 2:15 into the opening frame. Davis will likely face reigning 205-pound king Liam McGeary in a championship contest sometime in the first quarter of 2016, according to Coker.
While Davis-Carmont wasn’t the fight everyone expected to see, Coker recognizes that it comes with the territory. The last-minute alterations to the bracket did nothing to change his plans of holding more tournaments down the road.
“I think the tournament has a place, but it depends on the athletes,” he said. “We wouldn’t have done this tournament if we didn’t think we had four of the greatest 205ers. Are we gonna run around and do tournaments all the time just to do tournaments? No. We’re gonna continue to do tournaments, but they will be all in one night. I really think that’s the way to do it.
“King Mo got hurt, but that’s part of the tournament system. It could have went the other way -- Phil could’ve got hurt. It’s just how the dice roll. Personally I like them.”
Lawal’s future, meanwhile, remains unclear. Much depends on how he heals from the rib injury he suffered in the victory against Vassell.
“I don’t even know how long King Mo will be out, so let’s evaluate the time frame and then we can make some decisions,” Coker said.