Takanori Gomi and Yushin Okami Show That Rumors of the Death of Japanese MMA Are Greatly Exaggerated at UFC on Versus 2

Dave Walsh makes the case for Gomi:

The main story we've been hearing for the bulk of 2010 in relation to anything in Japan is how Japan is dead. Well, it might not be dead yet, but it will be dead, and all of the main stars who fought in Japan and are stars in Japan, well, they aren't as good as their American counterparts and probably can't hang against the elite of the UFC. With one crushing right hook at UFC on Versus 2, Takanori Gomi declared war on this school of thought and showed he isn't ready to be considered "done" yet.

...

Many feared for what would happen to Gomi going into tonight's fight, and just about everybody was proven wrong when Gomi's right hand connected flush on the jaw and Griffin hit the canvas. Gomi pounced but it wasn't even necessary, as Griffin was out of it and Gomi had just shocked the world. This win for Gomi serves as a beacon of hope and validation that not everything related to Japan is dead and maybe, just maybe the naysayers will have to take a step back and re-evaluate what we all think about Japanese MMA.

Ken Pishna at MMA Weekly talks up Okami:

There were no surprises out of Munoz, a national champion in collegiate wrestling at Oklahoma State University, when he worked for the takedown from the opening bell and throughout the fight. He was intent on putting Okami on his back to pound him out.

The problem being that Okami didn't get the memo.

He blocked all but one of Munoz's takedown attempts and used his striking to pick away at him over the 15-minute duration. Okami rocked Munoz on a couple of occasions, but never came close to finishing.

He did, however, stuff Munoz's game, and proved that he is one of the most durable fighters in the UFC middleweight division.

Now 9-2 in the Octagon, his only losses to former middleweight champion Rich Franklin and possibly incoming champion Chael Sonnen, Okami has set himself up to make good on White's words of a title shot.

Griffin and Munoz are exactly the sort of wrestling-based, weight-cutting American fighters that are supposedly driving Japanese MMA to extinction.

But Gomi showed that his winging haymakers remain kryptonite for wrestle-boxers like Griffin. Griffin has worked hard to develop a solid stand up game and he actually landed some hard shots on Gomi. But none of them were kill shots and Gomi paid them no heed. When Gomi hit back though, Griffin face planted like Ric Flair selling a work. Over and out. 

More in the full entry.

Sergio Non pointed out:

Over his last few fights, Griffin often showcased his boxing skills, but he never faced anyone with Gomi's natural aggression, punching power and ability to attack both body and head. Griffin has now lost two in a row for the first time. It was also the first knockout loss of his career.

As Gomi said to Joe Rogan after the fight (via interpreter): "This is what I consider my start at UFC. The first time I was here, I really didn't know how to fight American. You saw what happened today. I think I got the hang of it."

Then there's Yushin Okami vs Mark Munoz. As I wrote Sunday, Okami has been quietly bucking the trend of Japanese fighters going bust in the UFC by going 9-2 in the UFC. He's still not as dramatic as Gomi, but his methodical utter domination of NCAA Division 1 champion wrestler Mark Munoz showed that with the right approach to training and weight cutting, Japanese fighters can stave off the take down attempts of even the best wrestlers.

True, one judge did somehow score the fight for Munoz, but Sergio Non quotes the CompuStrike numbers and it was anything but an even fight:

...CompuStrike counted 76 strikes landed of 151 thrown by Okami. Munoz connected on 19 of 45 strikes. Okami landed more power strikes than Munoz, 17 to 13, including 11 for the winner in the final round.

What's really been contributing to the paucity of exciting Japanese MMA prospects has been the plunging commercial fortunes of MMA in Japan. The UFC put this even on PPV in Japan so hopefully some of the fans there will tune in to see two of their own emerge triumphant. If Gomi, Okami or even Yoshihiro Akiyama can put together a run and earn a title shot (Okami already has earned it IMO) and somehow bring home a UFC belt to Japan, that could really be the turning point for Japanese MMA. We've already seen the Budo spirit isn't dead, now it's just a matter of will the Rising Sun fly over MMA again.

The UFC has been marketing their product as aggressively as they can in Japan. Stacking multiple Japanese fighters on the same card is a shrewd play.

They've made a concerted effort since buying PRIDE in 2007 to bring the best Japanese talent to the UFC and it is beginning to pay dividends in the Octagon. We'll see how long it takes to start paying serious Yen.

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