UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage - Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi Dissection

Another salivating by-product of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva's seething cauldron is the UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage lightweight match up of Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi.

Diaz seems happy to cast aside his silky grappling in order to be aligned with a fellow gunslinger willing to stand up with him and empty the six-shooters until someone falls over. His wish is granted with Takanori Gomi.

Shattering the Japanese stereotype, Gomi is a thunderous boxer with sound wrestling skills and arguably the heaviest handed lightweight in MMA history. After the UFC shut down their 155-pound division and the talent migrated overseas, "The Fireball Kid" emerged as the sport's elite lightweight after a storybook series of knockouts in Pride Fighting Championships.

After a crippling defeat to B.J. Penn in Hawaii, "The Prodigy" proceeded to gallivant around in higher weight classes, abandoning the lightweight throne where Takanori Gomi would eventually take a seat. Setting up shop in the then-soaring Pride organization, Gomi drilled through ten consecutive adversaries with highlight reel panache to assume the mantle.

Gomi finished eight of those ten opponents in the first round (six knockouts and two submissions), isolating himself atop the heap by crushing the number two and three world ranked lightweights in Tatsuya Kawajiri (rear-naked choke) and Hayato "Mach" Sakurai (KO) along with former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver (KO).

His susceptibility to submissions was initially cloaked by his searing wrestle-boxing style, but later came to the forefront in a big way. The first sign was an arm-triangle loss to black belt Marcus Aurelio that snapped his win-streak, but the malady was somewhat salved in his following wins over Aurelio in the rematch, David Baron (eleven career sub-wins including Sakurai and Dan Hardy) and dominant wrestler Mitsuhiro Ishida.

Gomi's turbulent downfall was triggered by his upset loss to Nate Diaz's older brother, Nick, in an epic and mutual massacre. Then, Pride was sold, Gomi went two and two in Sengoku and faded into obscurity. Saturday marks the prime opportunity for a reappearance of "the old Gomi" against Nate Diaz.

Gifs and analysis in the full entry.

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Just as we were penciling Gomi in as another incomplete and over-hyped Pride fighter, he brought the apocalypse.

Carelessly hanging out in the slugger's wheelhouse, Tyson Griffin was reminded of the one-shot power that put Gomi on the map.

Though he's struggled with footwork and distance, Gomi proved his devastating presence inside the pocket was still afire.

His overhand left is one of the best in the business, but his favorite follow up -- the right hook -- was what vanquished Griffin.

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Exhibiting behavior typically associated with uncoordinated teenage dancing at an all night rave, Clay Guida shucked and jived while assaulting Gomi from all angles with strikes and takedown attempts.

Hitting a nice sprawl early, Gomi seemed unfazed by the whirling spectacle of curly locks and leather, but couldn't get out of defensive mode and eventually succumbed to a guillotine choke.

Gomi's sprawl, (flying) knees and uppercuts have been proven takedown repellants.

4_mediumHe uses his short, upward knee to the right when Guida charges in with his head down, but the result shows exactly why that choice is such a high-risk maneuver.

This type of knee was, however, the way Gomi earned Pride FC's record for fastest knockout with a six-second snuffing of the aggressively shooting Ralph Gracie.

Against the lanky Nate Diaz, Gomi will be tasked with deflecting an absurd amount of unorthodox strikes to assume his preferred range in the pocket.

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Despite spending most of the fight getting his head bounced back by long, stiff jabs, Gomi had a small assortment of encouraging sequences against Kenny Florian.

Again, we see the distance factor here, as Gomi was a stationary target from outside but transferred his massive power well at close range.

With his right hook, which is almost like a shovel punch here, Gomi adjusts for the distance by unrolling it from his waist and extending it outward. Gomi had a well earned reputation for going to the body and this was his preferred weapon to do so.

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Gomi's left hand lands almost immediately after his right connects. Take a second to time how quickly the left makes contact -- with plenty of heft -- after the right connects on Florian.

For Nate Diaz, this fight has two divergent angles: the obvious sizzle of replicating his brother's historic clash with Gomi, yet Nate is also coming off the most convincing, one-sided defeat of his UFC career to Rory MacDonald.

The sport vs. entertainment debacle rears its ugly head as Diaz's unquestionable advantage lies on the ground, but avoiding a standing brawl is just very un-Diaz.

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Marcus Davis, a brick-fisted southpaw boxer just like Gomi, is a nice frame of reference.

Capitalizing on his condor-like wingspan was critical against Davis just as it will be versus Gomi.

In the later rounds, Diaz found his range and pinged telephone-pole punches through Davis' defense. Timing his footwork and head movement to penetrate inside and pepper with strikes was what propelled Diaz to victory.

In the animations above and to the left, Diaz is liquid-like in slipping punches while pelting with his high volume boxing.

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Things get interesting when we recall the trouble that Davis presented with his jabs and overhand left early in the fight.

The pivotal change was that Diaz began by marching straight ahead while looping wide hooks -- which Davis neatly countered with tight, on-balance combinations -- but adjusted to setting up his advances with baiting punches.

Once Diaz got Davis in motion, he was able to create angles and target openings with a very deliberate in and out strategy. Whenever Diaz took the primitive approach of walking forward and swinging, he was tagged consistently by Davis' textbook boxing.

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In these last two examples, we see Davis emulating what Takanori Gomi specializes in.

He lays back, poised and ready to spring, countering Diaz's first strike with his overhand left and right jabs and hooks.

If you were to create the perfect opponent for Gomi, that's what he would do.

The downfall of the unusual striking of the Diaz brothers is that they have a tendency to plant their feet and absorb wayward blows in the pocket while volume-punching.

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Regardless if he's old, decrepit, or even past his prime, Takanori Gomi will still prey on that mentality. It's the same scenario from which he clocked Nick Diaz with the infamous Hadouken Punch in Pride (right).

I'm guessing, with his back against the wall and fresh off a humiliating defeat, Nate Diaz will be too smart.

In modern day MMA, it's just too hard for a limited fighter to survive at the top level.

I didn't even take the time to discuss Nate's highly under-rated Judo in the clinch or his ultra-technical grappling game.

Even if a significant portion of Nate Diaz's style plays into Gomi's hands, his chin is as solid as they come and there's an entire universe of alternatives he can exercise beyond trading on the feet.

I really don't want to see either of these exciting fighters lose. Normally I would pick either by sheer fanboy default. The hard steer for Diaz on the betting lines is pretty accurate, as Gomi's chances boil down to that of a puncher ... but even in that facet, he hasn't looked the sharpest.

Throwing all logic and reason aside, I have to throw out a prayer for Takanori Gomi to overcome the odds and actualize the impossible. I'm not ready to let go. As a highly revered wise man once said: "It's still real to me, dammit!"

My Prediction: Takanori Gomi by TKO

 

 

Guida vs. Gomi gifs via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

Davis vs. Diaz gifs via Chris Nelson for BloodyElbow.com

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