Ross Pearson vs. Takanori Gomi Head-to-Toe Breakdown
According to MMA Junkie, Ross "The Real Deal Pearson has asked for Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi as his UFC Fight Night 29 co-main event opponent. While the fight is not yet booked, it could hold considerable significance for both fighters if agreed upon. A win or loss can mean the continuation or end to each fighter's respective bids as a contender in the always-crowded lightweight division.
Both fighters looked sharp in their most recent bouts, but neither have been able to create a quality string of wins in the last three years. Both “The Real Deal” and “The Fireball Kid” have to know this is their lone remaining opportunity to avoid a drop to career gatekeeper or relegation from the league.
The depth and scope of the lightweight division also adds a particular need for a quality showing from one or both fighters. A decision win, unless accompanied by Shogun-vs.-Henderson-like effort, will not move the winner into a contender position. Only a dominating or devastating finish guarantees to put either man within striking distance of a top-contender bout.
The Stand Up
“The Fireball Kid” has one of the most interesting and under-appreciated stand-up styles in mainstream MMA. UFC fans ought take the time to re-watch Gomi bouts and note just how rare the former Pride lightweight champion's style truly is.
Those who recall the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix tournament can recall how Gomi rewrote how one could effectively strike.
"The Fireball Kid" stuck his head out and left it unprotected like an angler fish's illuminated lure. He continually switched his lead foot, his body always hunched over as he plodded forward. He kept is shoulders directly over his lead knee as he swung hard with combinations that looked as if they could take the head off a rhino.
It was just about everything wrong with proper boxing, yet none of that seemed to matter when it came to his successes. Gomi finished six-of-nine matches via (T)/KO during his Pride stint, with two more being submissions he sunk on stunned opponents.
His style has not changed, but a lack of devotion and cardio seemed to plague him in the last half-decade, save for the two most recent bouts. He will need to be on point during the Pearson bout to keep his UFC career viable.
"The Real Deal" has always had some of the most crisp boxing in the game. From his first day in the UFC he showed that he had an almost unnatural capability to mix precision with power and pace.
Pearson loves to consistently mix locations and strike types. He has developed a near-perfect quantity of technical striking and brawler's rage that has served him well thus far.
One of Pearson's strongest strategic advantages is his capability to choose which hand to throw and when. He is not afraid to double- or triple-up on a hook or uppercut, and textbook blocking can be foiled by such willingness to bend boxing rules.
That capability is coupled with a pace that he sets from the start of the first round. Not many can match the mix of quickness and ferociousness that “The Real Deal” employs. Even those who can keep up find it a struggle to survive.
Neither man has a true on-paper advantage. Gomi will hold the edge in power, but Pearson has the dynamic striking that allows him more possible attacks. It will be more about who can implement his strategy or utilize alternative facets of his game. Whomever is successful there will dictate who can take control in the stand-up portion.
Pearson is the stereotype of a British fighter. He has amazing hands, toughness, heart and a want to impress every time he steps forward to battle. He also lacks a well-rounded ground game.
To say it is not well-rounded is not the same as saying he has no ground game at all. Instead, it is to say that Pearson is still a stand-up fighter first. His capabilities to nab takedowns or fight off his back is more of a survival pattern than a avenue to victory.
“The Real Deal” has not submitted anyone in the UFC, and his last submission victory was in November of 2008. To his credit, outside of the loss to Cole Miller, Pearson has avoided tapping while gathering a (7-3) UFC record.
When one sees Gomi's record, one will note 60 percent of his losses are by submission (70 percent if you count the overturned loss to Nick Diaz). The number is a bit misleading for two reasons: First, it ignores the caliber of grappler that has submitted “The Fireball Kid.” Second, it overlooks the fact that the statistic is inapplicable given Pearson's lack of grappling interest.
B.J. Penn, Marcus Aurelio, Satoru Kitaoka, Kenny Florian, Clay Guida and Nate Diaz each have more submission finishes than (T)KOs or decisions. Each member of the list is a world-class grappler. Yes, Gomi can be submitted, but one must hold top-quality submission skills to get the better of him on the ground.
Many forget Gomi has a history of combat wrestling. While he does show a weakness for jiu-jitsu practitioners, he also has zero trouble with strikers. A striker is exactly what Pearson is, and Gomi won't be afraid to go to the ground with the Brit if he decides the striking battle isn't suiting him.
Neither Ross Pearson and Takanori Gomi are ground-first fighters. Each has rather glaring holes in his respective work once the fight hits the mat. That said, Gomi does possess an advantage on the ground if it should go there, thanks to his wrestling background.
But one cannot help wonder if Pearson has worked tirelessly on a guillotine or arm triangle that he hopes to capture a surprise victory with. Still, if one is playing the numbers and logic, Gomi has the advantage.
The glaring problem for Gomi in this bout is that Pearson is big enough to beat him. That may feel oversimplified, but Gomi has always struggled against relatively larger opponents. This is especially true if they are fighters that can dictate the pace.
Pride's lightweight division was 162 lbs and Gomi spent much of his early career fighting men who would be featherweights or lower today. Once he started facing natural welterweights like Aurelio and Diaz, he began to falter. It is not as if one can just pack on pounds and beat Gomi, but a weight-cutting lightweight with talent has a good chance.
Pearson fits the bill. “The Real Deal” is also a swarming fighter, which means he will look to overwhelm Gomi with his pace while also implementing his weight and power to push Gomi back. Both Diaz brothers, Guida and Florian found success by pushing the pace with Gomi. Pearson may find success in much the same way.
What Pearson will have to be cautious of is walking into a vintage Gomi “Haduken” punch. Gomi puts his entire body (and probably the weight of whatever spirit animal he has) into a high majority of his punches.
His hooks, overhands and bodyshots are absurdly powerful and swift. They often come from odd angles. Each can put anyone down when he plants them correctly. Tyson Griffin found that out the hard way at UFC Live 2 in 2010, when Gomi knocked him unconscious with a punch that rivals Henderson's H-Bomb that landed on Bisping.
Pearson is a tough man. But if Gomi plants one on his cheek after several to the body, the Brit is likely to fall.
Strategy Coming into the Bout
“The Fireball Kid” has to deal with Pearson's constant movement and willingness to trade. Gomi likes to settle into his pace and pick his shots. What that means for Gomi is that he has to employ a body-striking gambit.
A body-focused striking strategy can spell disaster for a fighter who can't finish. Judges are consistently poor at their craft. They often undervalue strikes to the body. Luckily, Gomi has the power to hurt anyone if he can tag the ribs more than once.
As long as he bides his power for the body shots, “The Fireball Kid” will slow Pearson down. That is when he can truly go to work and take control of the bout.
Gomi can choose to continue striking or place more quality to a slowed Pearson. From there Gomi can work takedowns and control in the waning minute of the round.
“The Real Deal” has to know Gomi wants to settle into a rhythm. Because of that, Pearson will want to add continual pressure early. If the Japanese striker can't settle in, then his cardio will be affected and Pearson can dictate the match.
Pearson has to keep moving in and out of the pocket to bait Gomi into missing often with large strikes. The Brit can bounce out of range with diagonal lines and circling away. From there, he can pepper his opponent with steady jabs and straights.
Despite his love for kickboxing, Pearson would be wise to avoid the use of low kicks and knees to the midsection. Gomi will counter such strikes with Hendo-esque overhands or shoot for a takedown if he wants to steal a round. Gomi is, however, susceptible to head kicks as he leaves his head out and his stance very low. If Pearson times it right, he could end the fight in much the same fashion Josh Thomson finished Nate Diaz.
It is all about who can implement his plan first. Pearson will likely have the edge given he can start faster and can gain points in aggression while Gomi looks for openings. If Pearson feels the power of Gomi and begins to second-guess himself, “The Fireball Kid” will establish his rhythm and work his way to a deserved win behind brutal body shots and superior wrestling.