This post on Head Kick Legend jogged my brain:
Takanori Gomi is the same fighter he's always been. The same guy that knocked out Sakurai. The same guy that had the epic war with Nick Diaz. The same guy that won titles in two of Japan's historically biggest promotions. He might have slowed down a small fraction but that is inevitable with the passing of time. The fact is that Gomi always got by with his subpar work ethic when he fought lower level competition. He could knock out fighters like Mitsuhiro Ishida and Luiz Azeredo because they have lackluster chins. He could submit fighters like David Baron and Charles Bennett because their ground games were not up to snuff. Gomi's problems now are precisely the exact reasons he lost his previous fights. He didn't train hard for certain opponents and they either made him pay for it (like Kitaoka, Marcus Aurelio, or Diaz) or he went to unenthusing decisions (like Seung Hwang Bang, Sergey Golyaev, and Jean Silva). The Florian loss was a combination of not having a good training camp and fighting one of the best lightweights out there. Training with Nobuhiro Obiya and Akira Okada at Kugayama Rascal is just not cutting it when you're trying to be an elite lightweight who's fighting at the top level. Going to the States and training here would do wonders for Gomi. He's also never been one for in-cage strategy. It is no secret that Gomi has a lot of success when his opponents start to brawl with him. Gomi's got natural power and enough punching technique to where he can starch guys that come in on him lazily. That ability is always going to be there and we saw it against Tyson Griffin.
Before all the stories and forum threads start coming out proclaiming, "Gomi's back!!11", consider the past of "The Fireball Kid". Are his problems really that he's physically depleted? Or is he the victim of his own laziness? You can decide for yourself.
Not only do I whole-heartedly agree with the post, it reminded me of something I wrote after Vitor Belfort KO'd Matt Lindland at Affliction's second show (and I could have posted again after he KO'd Rich Franklin at UFC 103):
Here's the deal. Vitor Belfort has always been extremely dangerous if you walk into his left hand early in the fight. Lindland cut off the ring, threw an unbelievably awkward left hook and charged right into Vitor's power punch. Further proof that Lindland is no Randy Couture. That was the definition of bad gameplanning.
Getting a flash KO win over Lindland isn't all that either. Dave Terrell did that in 2004 and no one remembers him.
Honestly, Belfort's win over Terry Martin impressed me more. Seeing Belfort gut out a tough fight against a game opponent in the later rounds is much more impressive than another flash quick KO win.
As far as his career prospects. I do agree with those who think Vitor might be headed back to the UFC. He's always been popular with the fans and doesn't need to be introduced to the UFC audience.
The risk factor with Belfort is do you dare give him a build up fight before his title shot? He's the kind of fighter who will let you down in that scenario almost half the time.
In my mind the ideal scenario would be to sign Belfort to the UFC, get Robbie Lawler free from EliteXC and put them into an immediate #1 contender fight. Either way the UFC wins and the resulting title fight could be the one that finally makes Anderson Silva a draw.
I'm not impressed by the return of the "old" Vitor -- the guy who gets quick wins over opponents who charge right into his wheelhouse.
I'm eager to see a "new" Vitor -- a fighter who can sprawl and evade takedowns, a fighter with a strong enough guard to not just survive but be a threat off his back, and most of all a fighter with the heart to go into the championship rounds hurt and still be a formidable offensive force.
Will we see that fighter in the UFC? Its too soon to tell.
Fighters like Gomi and Belfort will always be a bit of an enigma. Their offensive arsenals are so potent that much of the rest of their game has been somewhat stunted. When you have an excellent chance of scoring a KO win against any opponent who steps into the cage with you, why work on your weaknesses? Why train so hard?
This is a question that both Gomi and Belfort have repeatedly answered incorrectly throughout their careers. While Gomi has certainly put together the more sterling resume -- he's won more wars over tougher opponents -- he never has addressed his weaknesses in a systematic manner.
When I see fighters like Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones suddenly adding smooth jiu jitsu and submissions to their aresenal, it really makes me wonder how much room for improvement both Gomi and Belfort have. More importantly, will they be able to maintain their motivation and confidence to make title runs in the UFC. Both men have worn major title belts before, the question is will they ever do it again?