When Takanori Gomi's debut in the UFC was announced to be against Kenny Florian, I was disgruntled. Why should they not give Gomi an easier entrance into the Octagon? Kenny is a bad matchup for him anyway, and UFC debuts are rarely the stage for a fighter's best performance.
After he lost that fight so decidedly, I figured like everyone else that he was long faded from his heyday in Pride. I was not quiet in voicing my opinion that a legend like Gomi should only be fighting other names that had long paid their dues in the sport, not up and coming talent that could build a name off of Gomi.
When Joe Stevenson was announced, I agreed with the choice. Stevenson worked his way up and had been fighting professionally since he was 16. Also, Stevenson was already a name and seemed to be at the appropriate skill level for a faded Gomi.
So when Stevenson was forced to pull out of the fight, and the UFC replaced him with Tyson Griffin, I was once again disappointed in the UFC's choice. Griffin did not deserve the fight. As a fan, I wanted a fight that favored Gomi so that he could get some momentum behind him in the states.
Well, you can imagine how excited I was to see Gomi ignore the odds and knock Griffin out in classic first-round fashion. It was one for the Pride fans, even if I begrudgingly admit it.
However, now that Gomi has achieved a spectacular win over young and talented fighter in his prime, the rules have changed. Gomi now puts himself in a position to where he is being taken seriously as a contender in the division, and it is not solely about seeing a once great fighter trying to earn respect from new American fans—and earn a paycheck.
Now I'm OK with Gomi fighting basically anyone in the lightweight division. It would be nice for him to fight someone with similar experience as him, but I would also like to see him try to get another big win over another fighter trying to climb up the contender ladder.
Here are the top five fights that I think would make sense for Gomi's next step.