For one, he didn't use his wrestling as much as he should have, he said. For another, he was much too humble before the fight. No, that last part is not a typo.
"King" Mo – the man who is never at a loss for words, particularly when those words help him explain how much better he is than most of his peers – feels it was partly his pre-fight humility that hurt him in the cage.
"I wasn't me," he told MMA Fighting at last week's EA Sports MMA media event. "I thought I was going to win, but I tried to play all that humble sh-t. What it comes to is, that's not me. I know I'm the best, and I've got to be able to talk like I'm the best. I'm not going to do all that, 'Oh, he's a tough opponent' stuff. Not anymore. F--- that stuff. It doesn't work for me. I tried to do that so I wouldn't get this backlash, but it doesn't work for me. So now, people don't like me? F--- them."
Considering that Lawal is the same fighter who's been known to reply to fan criticism in the past by saying simply, 'F--- the fans,' this new approach hardly seems all that surprising. It doesn't even seem all that new.
But the way Lawal sees it, when he took to the mic ahead of his first Strikeforce title defense and praised Cavalcante's skills, he was really doing himself a disservice.
"I thought he was tough, but I thought I was going to win. I think I gave him too much credit because I was trying to be humble. I mean, I thought I was humble from the get-go, but now I'm just going to keep it real, 100%. However I feel, I'm going to speak my mind. F--- holding my tongue, dog. Never again."
For now though, Lawal's focus is on rehabbing his injured knee in the hopes of returning to the cage in February or March. After reluctantly agreeing to have knee surgery to repair damaged ligaments following the loss to Cavalcante, Lawal said he's intent on not rushing his return and making the same mistakes he made following surgery to repair a torn ACL in 2009.
"Last time, what I did is I got the surgery in Dallas, did about two months of rehab, then left Dallas and went to [California] and started training. After three and a half months I fought Mark Kerr, then fought again. I fought twice in the six-month period I should have been rehabbing."
Even after sustaining another knee injury in the Cavalcante fight, he said, he considered putting the surgery off until he could get just one more fight.
"I thought about it. I was like, you know, I can keep pushing through. But then I realized that I have to be smart about this. I can't be dumb like that anymore. I'm my own franchise."
For now, Lawal said he's been hitting the exercise bike several hours each day and doing water workouts to strengthen his newly repaired knee. The rehab period also gives him plenty of time to watch fight footage – always a favorite pastime of Lawal's – though he hasn't poured over the video from his fight with Cavalcante the way you might expect.
He's "watched it a little bit," he said, but he already knows what he did wrong in the bout.
"The thing with the fight with Feijao, if I would have used my wrestling like I could, or like I should have and didn't, it would have been easier. I wanted to stand a little bit and then take him down and do some more wrestling. I just fought stupid. That's all. I fought stupid."
Not only should fans expect to see a smarter fighter when he returns to action, Lawal said, they should also prepare themselves for one who's not going to hold back when it comes to pre-fight rhetoric.
"You thought Chael Sonnen was bad? Just wait. I'm going to be like the black Archie Bunker."