Takanori Gomi has seen the up side of down and everything in between during his 14-year career as a mixed martial artist. The man has scored some breath-taking knockouts, risen to the top ranks of the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championships, worked his way into the pound-for-pound discussion and amassed two incredible winning streaks (one being 14 straight, the other being 10).
However, Gomi has hit a few skids along the way as well. He was manhandled by B.J. Penn at Rumble on the Rock 4, submitted by Marcus Aurelio while fighting in his prime and turned into a highlight-reel victim by Nick Diaz at Pride 33, and he hasn’t pieced together anything more than a two-fight winning streak since 2009.
The man’s desire to fight has certainly come into question in recent years, and since transitioning to the North American promotion, The Ultimate Fighting Championship, he has appeared to be a shadow of his former self.
But what does it all mean? Are “The Fireball Kid’s” best days long gone? Is the cage not favorable to his style? Is he training as he should be in order to compete with the best in the world today?
So many questions…so few answers.
Takanori Gomi has quite a bit of mileage on his body. No one competes in mixed martial arts at the highest level of competition possible for more than 40 fights and walks away with no signs of wear and tear. The years and the battles catch up to fighters, and that’s simply a fact of life and combat.
One must wonder: How long will Gomi subject himself to extreme violence?
If “The Fireball Kid” drops the ball and comes up short in his bout with Mac Danzig tomorrow, his UFC record will stand at 2-4. A loss to Mac, assuming it’s not controversial, will knock the once-feared Gomi even farther down the lightweight pecking order, and he isn’t exactly knocking on the door of the Top 10 rankings as it is.
Another "L" on the record of Gomi will be glaring and indicative of where he stands in the grand picture today. It will also be a massively demoralizing experience for the man from the Land of the Rising Sun.
At 34 years old, Gomi is in the last of his fighting days. If he loses to Mac Danzig, who himself sits far south of the division’s elite, Gomi may realize it’s time to call it quits while his brain still functions properly.
If you take a gander at Takanori’s record, you’ll note one interesting fact: In eight career defeats, six have come by way of submission. That kind of stat is indicative of a man who may not have done all of his homework.
Danzig has the submission acumen to lock something up and force the Japanese native to relent defeat. The only question is, having endured back-to-back submission defeats last year (to Clay Guida and Nate Diaz), has Gomi fully dedicated himself to studying defensive jiu-jitsu?
If the man has been wise enough to put in the work required to patch up the holes in his game, he’ll be just fine on the mat. If he hasn’t, it could be the three tap tune once more for Takanori Gomi.
Sure, Gomi put Eiji Mitsuoka away with strikes at UFC 144; there’s no denying that fact. However, that performance, while it was a winning one, didn’t look like it came from the Takanori of old, who rendered opponents seemingly lifeless on the mat with devastating punching power.
In fact, if you think about it, Gomi hasn’t looked like the predator he was once considered in well over two years: The last time his fists looked truly amazing was way back at UFC Live 2, when he landed a perfectly placed counter on the chin of Tyson Griffin that left the Californian facedown and motionless.
Was that a lucky (I personally hate this term, but I have to throw it out there) punch? Have opponents learned the ways of The Gomi? And if so, can he make the adjustments needed to surprise foes with bricks to the face?
We’ll see tomorrow night.
This may sound like an absurd question, but think about it for a moment: Since taking up permanent fighting residence in the US, Gomi’s picked up just one single win, the aforementioned knockout of Tyson Griffin.
He managed to exit the octagon victorious at UFC 144, but stop to remember that fight took place in Saitama, Japan. Nate Diaz, Clay Guida, Kenny Florian and Nick Diaz have all stopped Gomi, and every one of those fights took place in the US.
The loss to Penn also occurred while fighting outside of Japan. Of Gomi’s eight defeats, half occurred away from home. Of his 33 victories, only one was earned on foreign (to Gomi) soil.
Let’s say Mac Danzig walks away from his bout with Takanori Gomi tomorrow as the clear victor. Let’s take it one step farther and say Takanori Gomi, despite the career troubles he’s run into lately, opts to continue fighting. Does Dana White opt to cut the fading veteran?
Ideally, Gomi remains an employee of the company, utilized primarily for those rare trips to Japan. The man remains a draw overseas, after all. But the reality is the promotion isn’t visiting Japan on a monthly basis.
If he loses tomorrow night, Takanori’s promotional record will stand at 2-4, and fan favorite or not, that’s not the kind of record that keeps a fighter registered as an active member of the UC roster—especially not when he’s been thoroughly outclassed in three of his UFC appearances.
Like it or not, MMA is a bit of a fair-weather fan sport. When you are winning, the people love you, when you are losing, the people forget you.
Takanori hasn’t done too much winning lately.
Will Gomi’s past success in Pride and Shooto keep his supporters dedicated and tuning in, or will they (or have they, for that matter) grow tired of seeing a once-brilliant competitor turned into a mobile punching bag?