Ultimate Fight Night 21: Florian vs. Gomi, held at the Bojangle’s Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the UFC’s third event in March, following UFC 111 and UFC Live on Versus: Vera vs. Jones.
Three shows in one month, two of which were free of charge on cable television. That is a flood of premiere mixed martial arts to absorb in such little time, a welcomed challenge to any diehard fan.
Of course, that was the beginning of the binge; we still have four major shows coming up in the month of April to enjoy. UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, the second consecutive UFC card boasting two title fights, on April 10. Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Shields on CBS, a card that includes three title fights, on April 17th.
WEC 48: Faber vs. Aldo, the inaugural pay-per-view card also including two title fights, on April 24. Lastly, DREAM 14, the South Korea event which will be held on the same date as WEC 48. Not to mention, Bellator kicks off his highly anticipated second season April 8.
“All things in moderation” is normally golden advice to abide by, but in this case, bring on the overdose. The more MMA, the better.
Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson
It was another beautifully orchestrated performance from the young Brit fighting out of Team Rough House, home to fellow British fighters: Dan Hardy, Andre Winner, and Paul Daley. Pearson is quickly making believers out of all of us by consistently displaying his multitude of discipline and technique.
First, we saw the 25-year-old score a unanimous decision victory over teammate Winner at the Ultimate Fighter season nine finale back in June. After winning the fight and a six-figured contract, Pearson went on to trump a very game veteran in Aaron Riley by doctor stoppage TKO at UFC 105 in front of his home country of England.
Now at Ultimate Fight Night 21 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pearson battered a very resilient Dennis Siver for a unanimous decision that rightfully garnered “Fight of the Night” honors. Siver’s tenderized face tells the tale of this battle—toughness and wild hooks were not enough to reverse his fate. Pearson’s shining point in this fight, like his others, was his stellar stand-up—crisp boxing and timed counters.
All these feathers in his cap have been accomplished by consistently out performing his opponents with numerous weapons: technical and tight striking, good combos, good counter strikes, good variety in stand-up and good take down defense.
Each time Pearson has stepped into the octagon, nerves aside, he has utilized his strengths, unquestionably striking, and earned clear-cut victories, proving that he is ready to ride his momentum to the next level of competition.
Verdict: Pearson, who is now on a four fight winning streak and undefeated in the UFC, is by far one of the brightest prospects in the lightweight division, a real testament to how far British MMA has developed in the last couple of years. He’s clearly the real deal and ready for an upgrade in competition. Let’s give him Clay Guida or really challenge him with prospective peer George Sotiropoulus.
Roy “Big Country” Nelson
Will someone please get this man a victory whopper…with EVERYTHING. If Roy Nelson continues his impressive UFC streak, we’re going to be seeing a lot more humorous, but awkward, gut rubbing. People have to dig deep beneath the surface of Nelson’s unique appearance—deceivingly chunky physique, his curly haired pseudo mullet, and boisterous demeanor—to find a very serious fighter aiming for the top of the heavyweight division.
Nelson is on the right path thus far after demolishing the Dutch giant, Stefan Struve, by “Knockout of the Night” in the first round.
Technology has advanced modern day skyscrapers to withstand disastrous events like earthquakes. Unfortunately for Struve, they were not made to repel overhand rights in the form of wrecking balls like the one Nelson used to knock down the 22-year-old kid—essentially ending Struve’s winning streak at three.
Verdict: The Ultimate Fighter season 10 winner has invited himself into the heavyweight contender mix with this victory, or at least a fight away from fighting the Dos Santos' and Velasquez' in the division. The former IFL heavyweight champion has obviously proved that he belongs in the UFC. Let’s give him Cheick Kongo.
Kenny Florian/ Takanori Gomi
Takanori “Fireball Kid” Gomi, the last Pride lightweight champion, was once revered as a pound-for-pound great during his dominant days fighting in Japan. He was a fresh face igniting his opponents with fierce striking, known for his boxing prowess and iron chin—a winning combination. So where was this rebirth of dedication he was supposed to demonstrate in his octagon debut against Kenny Florian?
Granted, Gomi was thrown into the deep end of the pool by debuting against a premiere lightweight like Florian, but he is an ex-champion with over 35 professional fights under his belt. For Gomi’s sake (not the Japanese booze), this should have been at least a competitive fight, assuming he wanted to leave a lasting first impression on the American crowd, a goal he mentioned at the open workouts a couple of days prior.
“I don’t know much about Kenny Florian…” Gomi also stated during the same workouts. There lies a major problem for the Japanese fighter. Florian is the last fighter at 155 lbs someone would want to overlook or not fully prepare for because he is such a well-rounded cerebral opponent who greatly improves all areas of his game, fight after fight.
Gomi definitely got to experience those improvements in the cage after getting sniped over and over by Florian’s lightening fast jab. The frustration on Gomi’s face was apparent after getting stuck by a couple of those jabs by the second round.
The Massachusetts native just outshined his counterpart in all areas of the fight; an example being the beautiful GSP-style take down in the third that led to the eventual fight-ending rear-naked choke once Gomi willingly gave up his back.
Verdict: Strides are being made and fights are still being finished—Florian is well on his way to another title shot. Standing in Florian’s way is the man, also on his way to a title shot, who has been calling him out: Gray Maynard. This exciting fight makes sense. Let’s give him Gray Maynard.
As far as Gomi is concerned, he will live to fight another day in the UFC after that poor performance. With that said, a great improvement will have to be made by the charred “Fireball Kid,” who is barely working with embers after the clinic Florian conducted, if he wants to remain a priority for the UFC. Let’s give him Joe Stevenson, who is coming off his own disappointing loss at UFC 110.