There have been plenty of memorable knockouts in the history of Bellator Fighting Championships, but few have reached the sheer magnitude of overall impact as when Emanuel Newton floored former Strikeforce champion "King" Mo Lawal with a spinning backfist to win their fight in the latest installment of the promotion's light heavyweight tournament.
The moment was huge for Newton on a couple of levels. It moved him into the finals of the light heavyweight tournament, but it also saw him conquer a foe most believed would coast into the Bellator title fight with little resistance from the competition.
On the day he signed with Bellator, Lawal was expected to be one of the company's biggest draws, not to mention his pedigree as a championship-level fighter. Newton knew that everyone was predicting he would just be another bump in the road on Lawal's championship run.
He was more than happy to prove them all wrong.
"He was all over the commercials, him and Babalu (Sobral) were to be the two top light heavyweights in Bellator. They were expecting them to be in the finals against each other. But that's fine; I don't mind being the underdog," Newton told Bleacher Report.
It was a big moment for Newton, but he doesn't want to be defined as the guy who just pulled an upset and beat Lawal. His ultimate goal is to beat his opponent this Thursday, Mikhail Zayats, and then go on to win the Bellator light heavyweight title. Anything less will be considered a failure in Newton's eyes.
"I'm not going to dwell on the moment. I have to get past Zayats and get that belt. That's the main goal for me. I needed to beat (King Mo) to put the icing on the cake. I'm not looking past Zayats at all, but I'm ready. It's my time," said Newton.
"I want to go in there and show people that I'm not a one-trick pony, that I truly am one of the best MMA fighters, one of the best 205-pounders, if not one of the best MMA fighters on the planet."
Newton's opponent this week is familiar with the concept that he wasn't even supposed to be in the tournament at this point. Zayats was matched up with UFC and Strikeforce veteran Renato "Babalu" Sobral in the first round of the tournament, and, just as in Newton's fight against Lawal, the odds were not in his favor.
None of that mattered when Zayats knocked out Sobral in the first round and eliminated an early favorite before he could even make it to the next stage of the tournament. Newton says he wasn't surprised with Zayats' performance that night.
"I saw him coming. Mikhail's tough. And not taking anything away from Babalu, but Babalu, his time has passed," Newton stated. "I don't want to say that, because I know Babalu, and I don't want to sound like an asshole, but he's put his time into the MMA world. At a certain age, you're either a Dan Henderson or you fall off the rankings. It just happens. You can't fight forever. I think Zayats is in his prime; I think Zayats is very tough."
Newton's plan still won't be complete even after Thursday, because then the mission will be to win the title. He's not looking past Zayats the way people overlooked him against Lawal.
"I'm taking it fight by fight," said Newton. "But I definitely want that belt."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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