Strikeforce ‘Houston’ Preview

Lawal vs. Cavalcante

Aug 20, 2010
Muhammed Lawal file photo: Dave Mandel |

Just like any organization, Strikeforce gets its fair share of negative ink and kilobytes. However, credit must be given where it’s due, and this Saturday’s Strikeforce card in Houston is of the can’t-miss variety.

Airing live on Showtime from the Toyota Center in the impossibly hot city of “Screwston,” you’ve got Muhammed Lawal making his first defense of the Strikeforce light heavyweight crown as well as “Jacare” and MMA’s premier Ranger deciding the middleweight title.

I don’t need to say anything else, but I will say this: If you miss these fights, I will cease to like you and I don’t want to have stop liking you.

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Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante

The worst of it is over for Lawal. He already beat Gegard Mousasi and is now lording over a light heavyweight division short on fighters perceived to be a serious challenge. It’s up to Cavalcante to prove otherwise, and doing so means he’ll have to overcome some daunting stylistic issues.

Just about anything on two legs is going to hit the floor if Lawal wants it to, and Cavalcante’s best look is on the feet. Hype up his black belt from the Nogueira brothers if you must, but if Mousasi couldn’t get a submission off his back against Lawal, it seems borderline insane to believe Cavalcante will succeed where “The Dreamcatcher” failed. For someone with a relative lack of experience, Lawal has solid grappling fundamentals and knows how to use his wrestling base to neutralize any dangerous offense while in the guard.

Not only that, but he was able to do it for 25 minutes solid against Mousasi. Given some of Cavalcante’s conditioning issues -- this is after all the same guy that gassed out and got laid out by Mike Kyle -- it seems as if it would be in his best interest to get after it early, lest he risk falling behind on the cards with no gas left to do anything about it.

This all gets back to Cavalcante’s biggest problem: He has no way of keeping this fight on the feet and probably can’t get any work done against Lawal’s top control. Even if Lawal obliges his desire for a kickboxing match, Lawal has shown flat-lining power and a real dedication to learning the art of boxing. Although Cavalcante has a more well-rounded striking style, he doesn’t have Lawal’s movement or ability to control distance behind a solid jab.

More than likely, any time spent on the feet will be a precursor to Lawal dumping Cavalcante on the mat. The omnipresent threat of a takedown is bound to influence Cavalcante’s approach, and even if it doesn’t, pure recklessness on the feet won’t get him any further. Trite as it may sound, styles make fights and the style clash in this fight is too much for Cavalcante to overcome.
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