Bellator MMA’s Saturday event in San Jose, Calif., Dynamite 1, features a throwback to the earlier days of mixed martial arts where single-night tournaments were the lay of the land. The 21-fight card features a world title fight, kickboxing bouts, and a four-man light heavyweight tournament where the winner will have to go through two fights in the same night.
It brings back memories of the beginnings of the UFC, the glory days of the PRIDE FC organization in Japan, and the epic IFC: Global Domination tournament in 2003.
To prepare for the possibility of competing twice on the same fight card, Lawal changed his normal training routine.
“I broke my training up. I did two sessions. I did an hour session and then I’d wait and then do a half hour session. My break was 30 to 45 minutes. Sparring, I did the same thing with sparring. I rarely did just one sparring session,” the 34-year-old recently told MMAWeekly.com.
Vassell has won ten of his last eleven outings. “He’s big, long, has range. He’s a good, solid grappler,” Lawal said about his first round opponent.
Like the tournaments in the past, how tough of an opening round fight an athlete has can play an enormous role in who wins in the finals. An alternate bout between Francis Carmount and Anthony Ruiz kicks off the night of fights in case one of the tournament winners is unable to compete in the finals.
“I’m looking to get the W and to advance. The first bout is two rounds. I’m all about cardio. My cardio is ready. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m thinking, damn, I can get paid twice in the same night.”
If he fights his way past Vassell, Lawal will face the winner of former champion Emanuel Newton and Phil Davis, who make up the other side of the four-man tournament bracket. Predicting that he’ll defeat Vassell, Lawal doesn’t care who he faces in the finals.
“My goal is to just get out of the first round. I’m familiar with Newton. If you watch the tape of my second fight with Newton, he didn’t land anything significant, nothing spinning. I shut all of that down. I busted him up and got takedowns. All he landed was a push kick, a push side kick. I busted him up. You saw my damage to him. You saw my takedowns. He didn’t get any takedowns. I thought I won the fight, but somehow he got the decision,” he said. “Phil Davis is kind of like a more moving version of Linton Vassell.”
Lawal has previously lost to Newton twice in the past, but he’s not seeking revenge unless the opportunity presents itself.
“It makes no difference to me who I fight in the finals. To me, it’s a win-win. Either I get to avenge a loss or I get a chance to beat a guy that people said I couldn’t beat who came from the UFC,” said the former Strikeforce champion.
Asked to make a prediction about the tournament outcome, Lawal simply envisioned, “me winning.”
“I think Linton got the hardest draw.”