UFC 135 weigh-ins at the Pepsi Center on September 23, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. via UFC.com
In an interesting battle at UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage, Ultimate Fighter winner Nate Diaz (13-7; 8-5 UFC) will take on former Pride champion "The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi (32-7, 1 NC; 1-1 UFC). This is a Lightweight bout, and is the second fight on the PPV portion of the card. The USA TODAY / MMA Nation Consensus MMA Rankings currently has Gomi at #19 at Lightweight, and Diaz unranked.
If you're a fan of the stories behind MMA fights, then this one has quite the history. For years, Gomi was viewed as the consensus #1 Lightweight in the world as he dominated the Japanese scene in Pride. In 2007, at one of the final Pride shows, he faced Nick Diaz, who at the time was something of a UFC washout. Gomi was the favorite, but Diaz pulled off the win using a rarely seen gogoplata submission. It was a huge victory, but was short-lived. Post-fight, Diaz tested positive for marijuana, and the bout was ruled a No Contest. Many fans still view it as a Diaz victory, but the official No Contest ruling stands. Here, Nate will look to vindicate his brother's win, while Gomi looks to gain redemption. Add hot-tempered brother Nick in Nate's corner, and you've got an interesting situation.
How do these two stack up?
Diaz: 26 years old | 6'0" | 76" reach
Gomi: 32 years old | 5'8" | 70" reach
What have these two done recently?
How did these two get here?
Diaz started his UFC career as a Lightweight after winning the 5th season of The Ultimate Fighter. After a 1-3 run in 2009/2010, Diaz decided to move up to Welterweight. There, he made a quick splash with two impressive wins, only to then drop back to back fights against Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald. He's now back at 155 for the first time since January 2010. Like big brother Nick, Nate Diaz uses a combination of Cesar Gracie black belt jiu jitsu and the Diaz trademark style of punches, though he has yet to find the consistent success of Nick.
There's no denying that Gomi is an all time great at 155. But you also can't deny that his UFC run has come far past his prime. Really, that Nick Diaz fight and the subsequent closing of Pride was the end of the road for the dominant Gomi. Since then, he's 5-4, with wins over mostly lesser fighters in Japan. He did breath some life into his career with a shock KO of Tyson Griffin at UFC on Versus 2, but even his pedigree may not be enough to save his UFC career if he loses here and drops to 1-3.
Why should you care?
If you have any question, re-read that 2nd paragraph above. This one has the potential to be all fireworks, and even though Gomi is down, he showed against Griffin that he's still one punch away from victory. And for all my fellow Pride fans, the chances to see these guys dwindle away every card. Enjoy it while we can.