This coming Saturday March 10th, Cinncinnati, Ohio will see the return of STRIKEFORCE, and it features the semi finals of the heavyweight tournament with Josh Barnett facing Sergei Kharitonov and Daniel Cormier taking on Bigfoot Silva. The undercard also features an intriguing lightheavyweight contest between King Mo, Muhammad Lawal and Roger Gracie.
For a pair of guys with less than fifteen total fights between them, it is still expected to be a very hard fought fight and one that will go a long way to earning the winner a bigger reputation as a prospect, something they both carry now.
Lawal, now 7-1, is coming off his first loss against Feijao Cavalcante, and is also coming off a thirteen month layoff after several knee surgeries. He is still a highly regarded athlete that brings elite wrestling to the table. He has steamrolled most of his opposition, and owns a win over highly regarded Gegard Mousasi.
Gracie is 4-0 in his MMA career, and though he is declaring himself dedicated now, questions have arisen since he has fought only sporadically.
Gracie brings a flawless, elite jiu jitsu game to MMA, and also a long six foot four inch frame to the lightheavyweight division. The Gracie camps can be very clandestine, but there are strong rumors that he has been knocked out in training and that is one reason why he has pulled out of fights in the past, so he brings a potentially suspect chin. But his frame and length hint that a good sharp jab might work for him to set up takedowns. Once on the ground, do not look for Gracie to spend time, it should be lights out relatively quickly.
Lawal, being more compact should be stronger than Gracie, and he needs to control where the fight occurs. Going to the ground is a bad option, as Gracie is long and tricky, but staying up and testing the chin is probably the way to go.
Here is a little known fact – Roger isn’t really a Gracie. His mother is from the legendary family, and of course his jiu jitsu pedigree is second to none, but his father’s last name is Gomes. But Roger Gomes isn’t as catchy. In my opinion though, he is in the top 2 jiu jitsu practitioners of the last decade, along with Marcelo Garcia. Does it crossover to MMA however?
This is another difficult fight to call, and the difference is this. I think Lawal has to be aggressive but stay safe for 15 minutes. If he doesn’t find the chin of Gracie, he has to do enough to convince the judges. Gracie, if he can get to the position he wants, can close the fight out at anytime. Hey, you decide.