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'King Mo' Lawal and the glorious revival of David vs. Goliath

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Twelve days ago, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson vaulted up a weight class and challenged a behemoth blue-chip prospect on a whim. The size difference was immense from the outset, but a funny thing happened: Henderson methodically wore down the giant then tapped him in the later rounds. David beat Goliath, and though Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal missed the opening stanzas of the fight, he caught the end -- the good part.

Afterward, in a moment of candor, Henderson told the cameras that he wasn't sure if he could win, but the physical challenge of it all was worthy enough to try and figure everything out. And in that, Lawal can agree. A former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Lawal will look to replicate Henderson's winning formula when he vaults up a weight class and challenges a man who's been a top-20 heavyweight for the better part of a decade, Cheick Kongo, at Bellator's upcoming Friday showcase.

Lawal, like Henderson, isn't sure how this whole "moneyweight" experiment is going to end, but again, that's not the important part.

"It feels like [an old-school openweight fight], because that's what it is, man," Lawal told "You know, David versus Goliath. That's why I took the fight. I took the fight because I wanted to fight and challenge myself. It's fun.

"I said heavyweight or 205. They brought me a heavyweight. He's still a man, so I ain't worried."

The fight is one that effectively sprung from nowhere, and it is quintessentially Scott Coker. Bellator's new grand wizard has always had a flair for crafting the most compelling concoctions from the spare parts in his cupboard, and now Lawal -- a six-foot-nothing light heavyweight -- will meet the six-foot-four French Adonis that is Kongo.

The whole affair has a certain old-world Japanese flair to it.

Lawal is undoubtedly the better fighter at this stage of his career. He's eight years younger than Kongo and has far fewer miles on his odometer. But Lawal is also one of the smallest light heavyweights on the Bellator roster, a 205er who walks around at the 210 to 215 range and rarely cuts any significant poundage prior to weigh-in day. So to say he'll be at a massive size disadvantage... well, that would be an understatement.

But really, who cares about a detail like that when there's glory to be had?

"I don't really rehearse nothing, I don't plan nothing," Lawal said. "I just go in and go with the flow. I said I'll fight heavyweight if that's where the money is. Heavyweight, 205, or any other cut I need to make, I'll fight at it. Because we fight for money. Greatness is cool, but when you have a family and everything, you just worry about taking care of bills and fighting and winning fights. The greatness thing happens later.

"I can be a great fighter, but then 10 years from now, people won't say nothing. It's how it is. Greatness comes later, especially when the next generation watches you or watches old footage. It's like Ali; when Ali said he was the greatest, people thought he was crazy. And then, 20 years later, we're like, you know what, he was great."

When Henderson went old-school openweight over Brandon Thatch earlier this month, he did so in the face of immense risk -- riding a career-worst two-fight losing streak and risking his viability as a contender for a Hail Mary experiment, just for funsies. Lawal doesn't quite share the same risk. He's won three of his last four Bellator fights (and really should've been four-for-four if the judges at Bellator 120 hadn't been so taken with Rampage Jackson).

Lawal has also fought at heavyweight four times before, though his last such instance was five years, and none of those matches came against someone as respected as Kongo.

Still, there's no point in living a life without occasionally throwing logic out the window and trying something just to try it.

So who's to say what will happen when Lawal and Kongo collide inside the Mohegan Sun Arena at Bellator 134? At the very least, it'll be one hell of a scene to watch.

"I don't know (how it's going to play out), I just know I'm going to win," Lawal said. "Kongo really thinks that I'm an easy fight for him and he's going to beat me -- that he's actually better than me at everything, better than me at fighting. And we'll see, man. If he thinks that, I'm going to prove him wrong and show him where it's at, because I don't believe that he's better than me at anything... besides maybe kicking. That's about it."

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