The king of the Pide ‘Bushido’ series, former Shooto Welterweight Champion, Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix winner, and Pride Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi makes his UFC debut this wednesday against Kenny Florian. While I’m super excited to see the UFC debut of the ‘Fireball Kid’ I wish he had been given a warm up match. Instead he’s been thrown into the lion’s den so to speak against ‘Ken Flo’. Gomi, disciplined in freestyle and ‘catch as catch can’ wrestling, began his career in Shooto back in 1997. Shooto is one of the oldest MMA organisations, holding its first pro fights back in 1989. Many of todays top Japanese stars made their name known in Shooto, including World number 2 Lightweight Shinya Aoki, Rumina Sato, Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai, Caol Uno and of course Takanori Gomi. Gomi went on to defeat Rumina Sato (check out Rumina Sato’s flying armbar on youtube) by decision for the Lightweight Title in 2001, and held onto that title until 2003 losing to, at the time a relatively unknown Norwegian fighter Joachim Hansen. Hansen obviously went on to become the 2008 Dream Grand Prix Winner and the first Dream Lightweight Champion. That was Gomi’s last fight in Shooto, until returning in 2009. Gomi left Shooto and went on to get choked out in the third round by BJ Penn at Rumble on the Rock 4 in Hawaii, before debuting for Pride in Pride ‘Bushido 2’.
It was during this time fighting at Pride, that Gomi went on to be recognised as the Number 1 Lightweight fighter in the world, beating the likes of Ralph Gracie, Charles ‘Krazy Horse’ Bennett, Jens Pulver, and then beating Tatsuya Kawajiri, Luiz Azeredo, and the Hayato Sakurai to win the 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix and be named the first and only person to hold the Pride Lightweight Title. Takanori’s last fight in Pride, was against Nick Diaz at Pride 33. Gomi was expected to walkthrough the UFC veteren and current Strikeforce Welterweight Champion. Instead when Gomi took Diaz down, in the second round he landed straight into a picture perfect Gogoplata, and had no choice but to tap out. The Nevada State Athletic Commission later over-turned the win for Diaz into a No Contest, when Marijuana was detected in his pre-fight Drug’s test, even though Diaz has a prescription for Marijuana for his ADHD. Regardless of the outcome, both fighters put on one of the most exciting fights in Pride’s ten years history. Since then Diaz’s career has continually been on the rise, where as Gomi’s has been somewhat up and down.
After Pride closed its doors in 2007, Gomi went onto fight for World Victory Road’s ‘Sengoku’, beating Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig at the inaugural event. He fought three more times for the company, but not in very impressive fashion. Winning a decision over unknown fighter Sueng Hwang Bang, and then losing to Sergey Golyaev. After the upset loss to Golyaev, World Victory Road still granted Gomi a shoot at the Lightweight Title against Satoru Kitaoka. Many were hoping that Gomi’s last fight was just a ‘hiccup’ in his career and that he’d rise to his former self and become the first Sengoku Lightweight Champion, instead, he tapped out to an Achilles lock in the first round. After this loss, it seemed that Gomi’s best days were behind him, not even considered a top 10 Lightweight. Gomi then returned to Shooto in 2009 and broke his two fight losing streak beating Takashi Nakakura by K.O. Even though it was a win, Nakakura was a ‘can’ and was presented to Gomi to be an easy fight, to get the former number 1 Lightweight back on the winning track. Gomi’s last fight was last october at the reform of Vale Tudo Japan beating American unknown Tony Hervey. Gomi is 2-2 in his last 4 fights, and while he hasn’t looked like the Gomi of old, he definitely has the talent to get back on top of the world. Getting a UFC contract after his recent performances is somewhat of a ‘God send’, but if he’s to keep hold of that contract, he’s going to have to put on the sort of performances that made him a superstar five years ago. If the old Gomi shows up, expect to see the fight of the night against Kenny Florian, and the re-birth of the ‘Fireball Kid’