With the possible exception of Chris Weidman's knockout of Anderson Silva, perhaps the most stunning moment inside the battlefield of MMA this year was when Emanuel Newton connected a spinning backfist on "King Mo" Muhammed Lawal, knocking him out cold, on Feb. 21 in West Valley City, Utah.
Lawal (11-2, 1 no contest) will do everything in his power to make sure history doesn't repeat itself, when the two are rematched and Bellator crowns an interim champion for the first time in its history, in a five-round fight, as part of its inaugural pay-per-view effort on Nov. 2.
Bellator announced the match Thursday, stating the reason for the creation of the title was because current light heavyweight champion Attila Vegh was sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
Things worked out almost too perfectly, since Lawal vs. Newton, a legitimate grudge match based on the result of their first encounter, was also the natural title match to make.
Lawal just won a summer four-man light heavyweight tournament, which was to earn him a title shot. But Newton (21-7-1), who won an eight-man tournament this past spring, was the man ahead of Lawal in line for the shot at Vegh.
It's the third fight announced for the company's first pay-per-view effort on Nov. 2 at the Long Beach Arena in California. Previously, Bellator announced a main event of Tito Ortiz vs. Rampage Jackson and a lightweight title match with Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez.
When Bellator first announced the show, CEO Bjorn Rebney talked about having multiple five-round championship fights.
Before the signings of Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz, and the return of Eddie Alvarez, Lawal was being pushed as Bellator and Spike TV's marquee star. There was a major press conference announcing his signing a dual Bellator and TNA wrestling contract. Spike TV also produced a television special on Lawal, showing his training for both of its combat entertainment properties, and he was being lauded by Spike as a "two-sport superstar."
The loss to Newton was considered one of the bigger upsets in U.S. televised MMA history, and the worst thing possible for the promotion given all the hype they had given Lawal.
"Listen, I'm going to be real honest about this, Emanuel is fake as hell," said Lawal. "He runs his mouth about being a black skinhead or something, and likes to act real hard. He's as hard as baby s---. I'm going to destroy this guy. He landed a shot on me in our first fight, nothing more than that. I'm better than him in every facet of the game. I didn't even shoot on him that first fight. I can take this fight anywhere I want it, and I will. It's over. I'm taking that belt in Long Beach, bringing it back to Las Vegas, and no one is getting it back. Not Vegh, not Rampage, not Tito, not anyone. It's mine. Payback is a b---h, Emanuel."
"I'm not going to spout off and trash Mo," said Newton. "I don't have to do that. I know Mo is going to run his mouth and try to sell his game, but I don't have anything to prove. I'm the one that knocked him out, and he's the one that has to deal with that loss on his record, not me. I did it once, and I'm going to do it again, this time on an even bigger stage. History likes to repeat itself, and Nov. 2, Mo's going to have to deal with another loss on his record."