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Takanori Gomi – From the Pitching Mound to the Octagon

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Takanori Gomi is arguably the most important figure in Japanese MMA, he was after all a star in PRIDE and unlike Sakuraba, made the transition to UFC and is still at it at the ripe old age of 36. The Japanese fighter known as “The Fireball Kid” wasn’t always a fighter though, he initially wanted to be a pitcher for the Nippon Professional Baseball or NPB for short. It makes you wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t fell in love with boxing, he certainly would have still been quite successful, but as big a star and legend? This is a retrospective on the life and career of Takanori Gomi.

Takanori Gomi (五味隆典) was born September 22 1978 in Kanagawa, Japan, a part of the greater Tokyo area, the capital city being Yokohama. Gomi was always athletic in his youth, being a pitcher throughout his junior high career, sporting a very good fastball which earned him the name that follows him until today; The Fireball Kid. Gomi played baseball until he was in his senior year, quitting just before his high school was chosen for him. Takanori felt lost after he stopped playing baseball and was desperate to find something else, finding just that when he watched a boxing match and joined the Sagamihara Yonekura Gym soon after starting his freshman year in high school. Gomi spent one year in high school and subsequently dropped out

.After dropping out of high school Gomi’s father disowned him, Takanori was now on his own with no support and so he was on his own, making odds meet by getting various part-time jobs, Gomi not wanting a steady job, but to be able to fight. Gomi then began his emergence from a boxer to an all around mixed martial artist, beginning his training in freestyle and catch wrestling at the famed Kiguchi Dojo under Noriaki Kiguchi who has trained other greats such as Noboru Asahi, Genki Sudo, Kid Yamamoto and Hayato Sakurai to name a few. Gomi then competed and won several All Japan Combat Wrestling championships, one even coming in 2008 . AJCW was a perfect foil for Gomi to consistently improve his grappling skills, AJCW essentially being Japan’s equivalent of submission grappling in other countries, similar to sambo being a specialty of Russia.

In 1998. Gomi joined the prestigious Shooto Gym and began training and competing in matches, Shooto being Japan’s equivalent to MMA before it was known as such. it combined real wrestling along with the techniques that are now known as MMA and had nearly the same rule set of the unified rules, except there were no elbows period and strikes to the back of the head were legal up until 2008. Gomi’s professional mixed martial arts career was soon underway as made his professional debut on November 27, 1998 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, famed for hosting the boxing matches at the 1964 Summer Olympics and considered the Madison Square Garden of Japan. Gomi faced Hiroshi Tsuruya, defeating him by unanimous decision and capturing his very first MMA win, little did anyone know that it was the beginning of a storied career and his rise to one of the greatest Japanese mixed martial artists of all time.

Gomi went on to compile a record of 9-0 when he was given his first shot at gold and was set to take on Shooto veteran Rumina Sato for the Shooto Lightweight Championship at Shooto: To The Top Final Act on December 16 2001. Gomi went on to defeat Sato by unanimous decision and thus captured his first professional MMA championship. Takanori would then go on to compile a record of 14-0, facing the likes of current UFC bantamweight fighter Leonardo Santos and UFC veteran and former King of the Cage middleweight champion Chris Brennan before suffering his first defeat in August of 2003 at the hands of future PRIDE fighter and journeyman Joachim Hansen, subsequently losing his belt by majority decision at Shooto – 8/10 in Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in Yokohama. Gomi then went on to lose to PRIDE and UFC veteran and Hall of Famer BJ Penn by rear-naked choke at Rumble on the Rock 4 in October.
2004 was the year that The Fireball Kid began his rise to legendary status when he joined Japanese MMA promotion PRIDE Fighting Championship, getting his first win in the organization at PRIDE Bushido 2 in Yokohama, defeating Jaydson Costa at 4:55 in round 1 by technical knockout. Gomi then made history when he knocked out fourth level Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and a member of the famed Gracie family, Ralph Gracie in just 6 seconds by flying knee, setting the record for fastest knockout in PRIDE history; Gracie subsequently retired from fighting. Gomi went on to compile a record of 6-0 in PRIDE before he faced off against fellow Japanese MMA legend, Tatsuya Kawajiri in the quarterfinals of the Pride 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix tournament at PRIDE Bushido 9 in Tokyo Japan. Gomi and Kawajiri would go on to put on what was named the fight of the year for 2005 in which Gomi defeated Kawajiri at 7:42 of round 1 by rear-naked choke. Gomi went on to face Brazilian Luiz Azeredo by unanimous decision in the semifinals the very same night.

2005 ended with a bang for Gomi, he was scheduled to face off against fellow Japanese legend, journeyman, UFC veteran and former Shooto welterweight champion, Hayato Sakurai in the finals of the PRIDE 2005 Lightweight Grand Prix at PRIDE 2005 Shockwave, an event held every year on New Years Eve in Tokyo from 2003 until 2006. In the biggest fight of his life and on the biggest stage in the world Gomi cemented his status as a legend of PRIDE, Japanese MMA and MMA in general when he knocked out Sakurai at 3:56 of round 1 and became the very first and only Pride lightweight champion. Takanori went on to face high level BJJ black belt Marcus Aurelio in a non-title bout, losing by arm-triangle choke at PRIDE Bushido 10 at 4:34 of round 1. Gomi faced Aurelio once again at PRIDE Bushido 13 this time for the lightweight belt, but this time beat him by split decision to keep his title. Gomi compiled a record of 13-1 in PRIDE when he faced off against former Strikeforce and Elite XC welterweight champion Nick Diaz. Gomi and Diaz fought for a solid 10 minutes when at the beginning of round 2 Diaz locked in a gogoplata and submitted Gomi at 1:46 of round 2. The loss however was overturned when Diaz subsequently tested positive for marijuana metabolites and was changed to a no contest.

After PRIDE was acquired by Zuffa, the parent company of UFC, Gomi signed with Japanese MMA promotion World VIctory Road, best known for their Sengoku events. Gomi made his promotional debut at World Victory Road Presents: Sengoku First Battle, the promotions very first event in which he faced off against former K-1 champion and Team Alpha Male member, Duane “Bang” Ludwig in the co-main event in which he defeated Ludwig by technical knock out due to doctor stoppage at 2:28 of round 1. Takanori went on to compile a record of 29-5-1 when he faced off against Shooto welterweight champion Takashi Nakakura in a non-title bout on May 10 2009 in Tokyo at Shooto: Shooto Tradition Final where he knocked Nakakura out at 4:42 of round 2. After defeating Tony Hervey by unanimous decision at Vale Tudo 2009 Gomi was set to make his UFC debut.

The Fireball Kid made his UFC promotional debut headlining an event against former championship challenger Kenny Florian in which he showed his warrior spirit in a lopsided fight in which Florian picked Gomi apart with jabs and body shots, subsequently being submitted via rear-naked choke in round 3. Gomi went on to face UFC veteran and former Gladiator Challenge featherweight champion Tyson Griffin, Gomi knocked Griffin out cold in just over a minute into round 1 and was awarded Knockout of the Night; Gomi being the first person to ever finish Griffin in his 17 fights up to that point. Gomi’s UFC career hit a rough spot when he dropped back to back fights against cardio monster and elite wrestler Clay Guida and Cesar Gracie and younger brother of former opponent Nick Diaz’ brother Nate Diaz, losing to Guida by guillotine choke and Diaz by armbar respectively.

In 2012, Takanori Gomi was determined to not lose three fights in a row, almost certainly being released had he done so. Gomi was set to face off against George Sotiropoulos, but Sotiropoulos pulled out due to injury and was subsequently replaced by Japanese journeyman Eiji Mitsuoka. Set to fight at the Saitama Super Arena, Gomi was making his return off of two crushing loses and fighting in front of his home country for the first time in 3 years. Gomi gave a performance reminiscent of his former PRIDE-self and defeated Mitsuoka by technical knock out of round 2. Gomi went on to say in the post-fight interview that he wanted to return to form and take his fighting career more than ever before. Later that year in November Gomi faced off against The Ultimate Fighter season 6 winner and former King of the Cage Lightweight champion Mac Danzig in which Gomi showed much improved cardio and a diversity, including landing a few takedowns on Danzig at one point. Gomi went on to get the edge in a razor-thin split decision.

The Fireball Kid made his return to Japan in 2013, when he faced off against The Ultimate Fighter season 2 winner Diego Sanchez on March 3rd. Gomi and Sanchez went back and forth for 3 rounds with Sanchez subsequently awarded a split decision victory, a win that many believed was the wrong decision including UFC president Dana White who said “How the f*ck did Diego win that fight!? Crazy sh*t”. Gomi then decided to take over a year off from fighting, revealing after the fight that he broke his left hand in the first round when he hit the top of Diego’s head. On April 26 2014, Gomi returned to the octagon when he faced off against journeyman Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 172, Gomi went on to win by unanimous decision in what was named Fight of the Night, quite an accomplishment considering the main event was a light heavyweight title match between Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira.

Wanting to build on the momentum and a chance to fight in his homeland before year’s end, Gomi took a fight in September against at-the-time undefeated prospect, Myles Jury at the Saitama Super Arena. Gomi came out aggressively, but couldn’t get a handle on Jury’s constant footwork, stuffing a takedown before he got clipped with a right hand by Jury who followed it up with punches on the ground until the referee stopped the fight at 1:32 of round 1.

As of my writing this it is July of 2015 and Takanori Gomi is set to face submission specialist Joe Lauzon who has the most post fight bonuses in UFC history and is known to go to war. Go is only a few months away from turning 37 and in my opinion, even with a second straight loss in this era of 2 and done I see UFC giving him another shot because Gomi is a very popular fighter. Even if Takanori does get cut by the UFC he will certainly find another organization to fight in. The Fireball Kid is a legend of the sport, a Japanese MMA icon and he’s also just a very exciting fighter who can put on fun fights. Whether it’s Bellator, ONE, Pancrase or DEEP, Takanori Gomi will always have a place to fight for as long as he wants to keep going.

You can watch Takanori Gomi face off against Joe Lauzon this Saturday on the main card of Fox at UFC on Fox: Dillashaw vs Barao 2 in what could easily steal the show as fight of the night.

Official source material courtesy of Official UFC website, Official Pride Fighting Championship website, MMAFighting. Bloody Elbow and MMAMania, respectively. Fight results courtesy of Sherdog.

http://www.ufc.com/fighter/Takanori-Gomi

http://www.pridefc.com/pride2005/index.php?mainpage=fighters&fID=188

http://www.mmafighting.com/2008/11/30/takanori-gomi-wins-gold-in-combat-wrestling

http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2013/3/4/4063300/ufc-on-fuel-8-takanori-gomi-broke-his-hand-early-in-fight-with-diego

http://www.mmamania.com/2013/3/3/4058694/pic-dana-white-reacts-to-diego-sanchezs-decision-win-over-takanori

http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Takanori-Gomi-425

 

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FURY FC 17 Preview: UFC Veteran Roger Narvaez Set to Fight For Gold

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Deep in the Hill Country of Texas, there is a storm of MMA action brewing on the horizon in the historic city of San Antonio.

In 1836 the most iconic siege ever to take place in the American West was waged between Santa Anna’s Mexican forces and a small band of Texans fighting for their independence at the Battle of the Alamo. On June 10th that tradition of never backing down continues as Fury Fighting Championships 17 takes place at the Shrine Auditorium with a card that was originally slated to have 20 bouts of MMA action. At the top of the bill, there will be a familiar face as former UFC fighter, Roger “The Silverback” Narvaez, looks to capture his first championship in the sport when he faces Antonio “Doomsday” Jones for the vacant middleweight title. The event will also feature a hot prospect, a kickboxing champion, and a grudge match.

Fury FC 17 will be broadcast live on FloCombat.com.

While the 33-year-old Narvaez (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has already realized his ultimate goal of getting to the highest level of MMA, fighting for a title has always eluded him. The 6’3″ fighter nicknamed “The Silverback” due to his abnormal 79.5″ wingspan, or monkey arms as he calls them was twice scheduled to fight for the Legacy Fighting Championship Middleweight Title against then champion Bubba Bush who now fights in the UFC. An injury caused the first fight to be canceled. Then a call up to the UFC to fight an unknown opponent on short notice put an end to plans for the another scheduled title fight.

Theodorou vs. Narvaez at UFC 185 (photo: Matthew Wells – MMA Latest)

 

To Roger, the secret to grabbing the attention of the world’s biggest MMA promotion is fighting for several different promotions. He fought for six different organizations winning all of his fights before getting a call from the UFC’s former matchmaker Joe Silva to ask if he was ready to make the move. Narvaez feels that fighting for multiple shows tells the UFC that a fighter is ready to fight whoever and whenever. His first fight for the promotion was a loss to Patrick Cummins at UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque where he fought at an altitude of over 5300 feet sea level, something he says will not do again unless he is training at altitude. To put it bluntly, he plainly states “the altitude in Albuquerque sucks.” After a win against Luke Barnett, he faced Elias Theodorou. In that fight, he broke his arm before ultimately losing, and was then cut by the UFC.


At this point in Narvaez’s career, his goals now are different:

“The next goal for me, to be realistic, is to make as much money as I can. I love fighting, but at the same time, I have a family that I am trying to support. That is always first and foremost now…[and] Fury is doing a pretty good job of taking care of me…This is a really big deal for me. I am probably training harder for this fight than I have ever trained before. Part of that is with age comes knowledge and experience and I am doing everything I need to do the right way to get ready to come home with that strap, but that strap means ever thing…I didn’t quit fighting with a broken arm, it is going to take something pretty drastic to get me stop. I don’t think the guy I am fighting is going to be able to break my will or test my heart to where I am not going to be able to pull through…coming home with that title is a big deal.”

That home is one of a fighting family. Narvaez’s wife Brandi is also a fighter who recently made her professional debut at Legacy Fighting Alliance 7. His stepson is a gray belt who competes in Jui-Jitsu year round, his daughter also trains in the sport. They understand the hard work that their dad puts in more so than the average fighter’s family. As he puts “it’s not normal, but it is normal to us.”


The prospect to keep an eye on is Two-time Alabama state wrestling champion turned lightweight MMA fighter, Alec Williams (5-1 MMA) from Birmingham. Williams will be looking to rebound from his first professional loss as he takes on Travonne “Prince Scorpion” Hobbs. In his last fight, Alec relied on his wrestling and got it in his head that he did not want to stand and trade with his opponent. That mentality ultimately not only cost him his undefeated record but also to sustain four broken bones in the right side of his face.

“I didn’t get knocked out, I still got the takedown after I broke those four bones. I know it is going to be pretty difficult to knock me out…Honestly, the loss kind of took any pressure off. Before I was undefeated, that loss was going to be a big change and now a loss is just another loss.”

For this fight, Williams says he has been working with MMA legend and former UFC fighter Pete Spratt on his stand up and will not make the same mistake twice.


Also featured on the card is the first Brazilan World Cup Kickboxing Champion, welterweight Washington “Washingthai” Luiz. Originally slated to fight Nickolay Veretennikov, “Washingthai” Luiz will now take on lesser known Danny Ageday. With a new opponent on just four days notice, the man who has aspirations to become a champion in GLORY Kickboxing is not fazed.

“I did my whole camp studying my first opponent who is a striker like me, but I do not feel harmed by the change. I’m ready for this war…The main reason for my change to the USA is the opportunity to be in the biggest events in the world I have already fought the biggest events in Brazil in kickboxing and MMA. I have fought in big events in Europe and now my challenge is the biggest event of kickboxing, GLORY. But I also love MMA and when a fight appears for me, I do not refuse.”


The grudge match at Fury FC 17 comes to us from the flyweights division’s Mark “The Sparrow” Plata and David “Gallito” Miramontes. These two men were scheduled to fight previously but Plata had to pull out due to his wife giving birth to twins. According to Plata, that is where the beef began.

“The day my twins were born he was messaging me talking about how this was not a good reason not fight and that I just did not want to fight him. My kids were in ICU at the time and he just keeps messaging me over and over…it upset me at the time because they were dying, they were trying to survive, but it just added more fuel to the fire. Then he kept asking promoters to fight me. He asked two or three different promoters to set it up. I got tired of him asking for me. So then I was like, alright cool if you want it that bad, let’s do it…His fighting style matches his personality. He tries to be a bully, and that’s cool, I don’t mind shutting bullies down.”

Titles, champions, prospects, legitimate bad blood…what more you could ask for in a local card?

This is an event not to miss and thanks to Fury FC having a deal with FloSports, you do not have to.

Tune in for all the action live at 6:00 PM CST on FloCombat.com this Saturday.

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*VIDEO* Francis Ngannou has his eyes on the UFC Heavyweight Title

Matthew Wells

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UFC Heavyweight Francis “The Predator” Ngannou has taken the heavyweight division by storm.

Currently 5-0 in the UFC and riding a 9 fight win streak, the native of Cameroon possesses vicious power and has shown improvements each time he steps inside the cage.

Hear Ngannou talk about his journey and plans for the future:

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The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

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Korean Zombie UFC

The featherweight division has become one of the most exciting in the UFC in the last few years. With the arrival of Conor McGregor, and an influx of exciting talent, new life has been breathed into a division that was suffering due to Jose Aldo’s dominance.

A notable absentee during this rise has been “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, who returns for the first time in three years against Dennis Bermudez on Saturday. The fight features as the main event of UFC Fight Night 104, and Jung is making his long awaited return after serving his mandatory military service duty for the South Korean Army.

With the fight with Bermudez fast approaching, the buzz for Jung’s return is noticeable throughout the MMA community. With a return of this magnitude, it is always fun to look back at the career of the fighter and relive the moments in his career that make the fan in all of us excited for his return.

The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung was widely considered to be one of the best prospects to emerge from the far east when he was signed by WEC to face Cub Swanson in 2010. An injury forced Swanson out of the contest and Leonard Garcia stepped in as a replacement.

The fight between the two would take place on the preliminary card of Jose Aldo Jr. vs. Urijah Faber for the WEC featherweight championship. The event was the first and only WEC pay-per-view card and with Zuffa on board, the event was treated as such with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan on commentary.

That night, MMA fans were treated to one of the greatest fights in mixed martial arts history and widely regarded as the best fight ever in the lighter weight classes. Many fans call a fight “a war” in an exciting contest between two fighters, but the fight between the Zombie and Garcia was more like a demolition derby.

Both men threw their strikes with wreckless intent and dropped each other on numerous occasions. The fight went to a split decision with Garcia getting the nod from the judges. Many considered Jung the winner, but the fight received praise from every media outlet in the days following the card. Dana White would wear a shirt with the now famous “Korean Zombie” logo at the following UFC PPV weigh ins in support of the epic fight.

Jung returned to the cage to face George Roop in his next outing in the WEC and lost the fight by a vicious head kick. This would be his final fight in WEC as the UFC went on to absorb the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions and bring both into the UFC.

Jung was scheduled to make his promotional debut for the UFC against Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night 23, but was forced out of the fight with an injury. Ironically Leonard Garcia’s opponent Nam Phan would suffer an injury before their scheduled fight. It seemed like fate that Jung and Garcia would do battle once more. The Korean Zombie came in as a late replacement for the injured Phan. The rematch between the two was highly anticipated and the UFC was promoting the fight as the rematch to the greatest fight ever.

The fight was set as the opener to the main card for UFC Fight Night 24. What came next was history in the making. Both fighters were tentative in the early exchanges in the fight and didn’t have the same enthusiasm to brawl as the previous encounter, but in the final few minutes of the opening round, Jung took the back of Garcia.

In an unorthodox position on the ground, Rogan said on the desk, “Looks like he is setting up for a twister”. The twister was not seen in the UFC at this point and with the clock ticking, Jung stretched Garcia in a position where his spine was turned into a pretzel and Garcia tapped. Jung stated in the post-fight interview with Rogan that he had learned how to do the submission watching videos of Eddie Bravo doing the move. The win won multiple awards for submission of the year.

After that win, Chan Sung Jung was set to face Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in Toronto. Hominick, who fought Aldo for the title at UFC 129 in his hometown, came into the fight as the underdog, but in seven seconds that all changed. Jung cracked Hominick, tying the record for the second fastest knockout in UFC history. A win over a former title challenger launched the South Korean into title contention.

Following another historic win, Chan Sung Jung was now set to take part in his first ever main event against rising star Dustin Poirier with the winner receiving a title shot against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at a later date.

Jung went on to put on another fight of the year that night. The one-man zombie horde overwhelmed Poirier in the early rounds with his aggressive style. Numerous submission attempts and transitions by Jung frustrated Poirier. As Poirier became more aggressive and careless in the fight, Jung launched a flying knee in the third round and rocked his opponent. Poirier attempted to take Jung down, but the Zombie caught Poirier in a D’Arce choke in the third round to get the win.

Multiple injuries, and scheduled title fights between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar; and Aldo and Anthony Pettis, delayed Jung’s title shot. After Pettis was forced out of the title fight with Aldo because of an injury, Jung was called up as a late replacement and finally get the title shot he earned by defeating Poirier a year earlier.

The fight would take place in Brazil and was surprisingly lacklustre. Both fighters were sizing each other up for the majority of the contest. Jung suffered an injury during the fight when he dislocated his shoulder and in typical zombie fashion, Jung attempted to put his own shoulder back in place. Aldo used this time to attack, winning the title fight by TKO.

This would be the last time we saw the zombie in the cage as he would be drafted by the South Korean Army to do his two-year mandatory military service. Jung has not fought in three and a half years.

Now the burning question is how will the Korean zombie look after such a long absence. One thing is sure though, fans are extremely excited to see his return and on Saturday, The Zombie Apocalypse could be on the cards if the South Korean comes out of the cage with a win.

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