The MMA world was pretty much in a state of shock when Emanuel Newton laid a spinning backfist on Muhammed Lawal’s chin. But with “King Mo” out on the canvas, Newton wasn’t surprised at all.

In fact, he said, he pretty much planned on it. Maybe he didn’t envision a spinning backfist, but he certainly planned on walking away with his hand raised.

WIth that semifinal highlight-reel win at Bellator 90 out of the way, Newton (20-7-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) now meets Mikhail Zayats (21-6 MMA, 2-0 BFC) on Thursday at Bellator 94 in the finals of the Season 8 light heavyweight tournament. Oddsmakers have the fight just about down the middle, a stark contrast to his 10-to-1 underdog status against Lawal.

Bellator 94 takes place at Sun Dome at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The main card airs on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.

“(For) ‘Mo,’ I was ready mentally and physically,” Newton told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “Before I even stepped out there, I knew I was going to finish the fight, and I knew it was going to be in spectacular fashion – and I knew it was going to be early, too. Yeah, (Bellator is) the toughest tournament. But I was ready.

“All this happening in my life is meant to happen, and I truly believe it’s my time to go out there and shine.”

Newton believes hooking up with a new trainer at Wild Card MMA has helped him turn the corner. He wasn’t with Arnold Chon before his opening-round win over Atanas Djambazov. But a few short weeks before the Lawal fight, he started working with Chon – and everything changed.

Newton gives Chon the bulk of the credit for his win over Lawal, and what he expects to be the biggest win of his career on Thursday. And one gets the sense he’s not just saying it because Chon is next to him in their rental car.

“I try to be as awkward and as unorthodox as I can be,” Newton said. “I think that’s one thing that really helps my style – being unorthodox, but being athletic and explosive. I was only with (Chon) for two and a half weeks before the ‘King Mo’ fight, and my hands look like night and day. I’ve had another month with the man, so I think I’m twice the fighter as when I fought ‘Mo.’”

That could spell trouble for Zayats, whose two wins in the tournament have been first-round stoppages of Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Jacob Noe.

But the Russian with a seven-fight win streak has proven to be plenty dangerous, himself, and Newton knows it.

“Mikhail is Russian – and Russians are very, very tough,” he said. “They bring everything to the table. I’m definitely very impressed with Mikhail and I’m not looking past him whatsoever. I know it’s going to be a good fight.”

But Zayats doesn’t have what Newton believes is the turning point for him, and that’s Chon. And that could bean a $100,000 tournament win and a title shot.

“I’m definitely ready for it to be done and over, but I’m ready,” Newton said. “I’ve been training hard and I’m not going to have any ring rust. I’m ready to get in there and do work. I’m definitely excited about winning that money, too. God knows I need it, so let’s do it.

“I just feel like a different fighter completely since getting with Arnold and the ‘Mo’ fight. I’m just ready to go, whether it’s a title fight or a tournament final fight. I’m ready to show the world, truly, who Emanuel Newton is.”

For more on Bellator 94, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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