Decorated jiu-jitsu specialist Roger Gracie will put his undefeated mixed martial arts record on the line against former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in a bout targeted for July 9th. A location and venue for the July event have not yet been announced.
MMARising.com confirmed today with a source close to the negotiations that verbal agreements are in place. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker hinted at the matchup earlier this morning. Gracie had previously been in talks to face another ex-Strikeforce champion, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, in June.
Gracie (4-0-0) is seen by many as one of the very best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world. Though he has competed sparingly in mixed martial arts thus far, Gracie has yet to taste defeat and has submitted all four of his opponents to date. After two first-round submissions outside of the promotion, Gracie made his Strikeforce debut last May and finished former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin “The Monster” Randleman with a rear-naked choke late in round two. He then dispatched of Trevor Prangley in just over four minutes in January.
Lawal (7-1-0) rose to fame while competing for Sengoku in Japan, where he became a fan favourite both for his in-ring skills and charismatic personality. The standout wrestler debuted with a September 2008 upset victory over Travis “Diesel” Wiuff and went on to score three knockout wins in four Sengoku appearances. After stopping veteran Mark Kerr, Lawal debuted for Strikeforce in late 2009 and knocked out Mike Whitehead, then captured the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship with a five-round workmanlike decision against then-champion Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi.
In his most recent outing, Lawal suffered his lone defeat to date at the hands of ex-champ Cavalcante, who stopped Lawal with knees and punches in the third round of their title tilt. He was sidelined after the loss due to a knee injury that required surgery, and the planned July bout will be his first fight in close to a year. The winner of the targeted Gracie-Lawal matchup could find themselves on a short list of title contenders in the ever-changing Strikeforce 205-pound division.
Other rumoured matchups for the July 9th Strikeforce card include a catchweight bout between former long-time PRIDE ace Fedor Emelianenko and current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Dan “Hendo” Henderson, and a welterweight battle between Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. The Saffiedine-Santos matchup was first reported by MMAjunkie.com today.
Update (April 13th): The date for the Strikeforce event has reportedly been pushed back until later in July. The bout between Gracie and Lawal remains targeted for the card and a revised date – as well as a city and venue – should be known soon.
(Photo Credit: Sherdog.com)