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Former NCAA champ Muhammad Lawal makes a statement with upset over Travis Wiuff at Sengoku

A new mixed martial arts star may have been born Saturday night in Tokyo, Japan during World Victory Road’s Sengoku 5 at the National Yoyogi Stadium. Replacing an injured Roger Gracie against former PRIDE and UFC veteran Travis “Diesel” Wiuff on less than a week’s notice, former NCAA Division II freestyle wrestling champion Muhammad “Mo” Lawal pulled off a dramatic upset win over Wiuff following a first round TKO.

Training out of Team Quest in Temecula, Calif. on a part-time basis the past year, Lawal had been splitting his time between preparing for his MMA debut while also working out at the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colo. in an attempt to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in the 84 kilogram weight class.

Despite being pegged by many as a favorite to make the team, Lawal failed to qualify. Afterwards, Lawal devoted his training time solely to MMA and surprisingly was added to this weekend’s card as a last-minute replacement.

Giving up a noticeable amount of size and experience against Wiuff, Lawal showed better-than-expected skills on his feet and did not look like a fighter trying to rely exclusively on his wrestling. After connecting on superman punch, Lawal pounced on a downed Wiuff lodged against the ropes and began to deliver several unaswered strikes before the referee stepped in to call a stop to the match.

Despite being a newcomer, Lawal garnered a strong reaction to a Japanese crowd that is appreciative of showmanship. During his ring entrance, Lawal, who also has a background in boxing and Judo in addition to wrestling, was accomapined by several female Japanese valets. Following the fight, Lawal executed a forward roll from the ring to the floor as he celebrated his victory with several Team Quest teammates, which included Jason “Mayhem” Miller.

Coming into the fight, several pundits were critical of the decision by Lawal’s camp to allow him to face the seasoned Wiuff in his debut. In addition to his tours of duty with PRIDE and the UFC, Wiuff had claimed the YAMMA Pit Fighting heavyweight title in a single-night, eight-man tournament this past April and came into Sengoku 5 on the heels of a 10-fight winning streak.

Lawal’s contract status with Sengoku is not known but the impressive victory and brief display of good all-around skills will likely pique the interest of several major promotion in the U.S. that could garner the MMA rookie a lucrative contract offer.

Sengoku 5 also marked the start of the promotion’s Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament. Afghani Siyar Bahadurzada recorded an upset over former PRIDE veteran and Chute Boxe Academy member Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos after Santos suffered an arm injury following an awkward landing during a takedown attempt. While Santos’ status was not immediately known, he could be sidelined for an extended period of time, as he was taken out of the ring area on a stretcher.

Jorge Santiago, who won Strikeforce’s single-night, four-man middleweight tournament last November, submitted UFC and WEC veteran Logan Clark with an arm triangle at 3:35 of round 2. It was the first time Clark had ever been submitted.

Former PRIDE and UFC veteran Kazuhiro Nakamura made his debut at 185 lbs. a successful one following a unanimous decision victory over Paul Cahoon and Strikeforce veteran Yuki Sasaki completed the Grand Prix’s final four after submitting Yuki Kondo with a rear naked choke.

The show’s opener saw BodogFIGHT veteran and American Top Team member TKO former IFL lightweight champion Ryan Schultz at 1:57 of round 1. The loss was Schultz’s second in a row, as he had been defeated in his Sengoku debut last month when he was knocked out following a Superman punch deliver by Mizuto Hirota.

Complete results from the eight-bout show are as follows:

1. Jorge Masvidal def. Ryan Schultz via TKO at 1:57 of round 1

2. Kiuma Kunioku def. Sun Kwon by unanimous decision

3. Siyar Bahadurzada def. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos via TKO at 0:22 of round 1

4. Jorge Santiago def. Logan Clark via submission (arm triangle) at 3:35 of round 2

5. Kazuhiro Nakamura def. Paul Cahoon via unanimous decision

6. Yuki Sasaki def. Yuki Kondo via rear naked choke submission

7. Muhammad “Big Mo” Lawal def. Travis Wiuff via TKO (stikres) in round 1

8. Alexandre “Xande” Ribiero def. Takashi Sugiura via TKO in round 3