Once upon a time Takanori Gomi was the best lightweight in the world. Once upon a time Nate Diaz was one of the best lightweight prospects to step into the UFC. It’s interesting how time has changed both of those perceptions as Gomi is now on the downside of a career and Diaz is struggling to find a weight class to excel at. And now both are going to collide at UFC 135, both at a crossroads in their career.
This is Gomi’s best shot at establishing himself back on the path of being an elite lightweight. After losing to two of them in dramatic fashion, choked out by both Clay Guida and Kenny Florian, Gomi has one win in the division in three fights with a knockout of Tyson Griffin the lone positive result in his UFC career. He’s been consistently ranked as a top lightweight before his UFC stint and if there ever is a chance that “The Fireball Kid” has a shot at reclaiming a spot amongst the elite he needs a win. He needs it badly.
Diaz needs a win over Gomi to potentially save his job at this point. Coming off losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald at Welterweight, Diaz has a fairly impressive resume at lightweight. He dropped split decisions to Gray Maynard and Clay Guida (both ranked in the top five in the world) and has a submission victory over another contender in Melvin Guillard. He needs a win just as badly; a loss would make it three straight and most likely out of the UFC. He has the potential to be a great lightweight but the path has to start at UFC 135 or he’ll be another Ultimate Fighter winner looking for fights.
Both fighters have fairly similar styles and this’ll most likely become much more of a grappling match than wind up as a sloppy brawl. Both are submission specialists who don’t throw many leg kicks and want to get the fight to the ground as quick as they can.
Gomi works fairly strongly on top and has shown solid takedowns. He’s shown flashes of knockout power and became a bit of a head hunter as of late but he’s giving up significant reach and height to the younger Diaz. His best shot is taking Diaz to the ground.
When he’s there he’s at his best out of half guard or in mount when working his submission game and that’ll be his game plan for the fight. He’ll want to get Nate to the ground quickly and keep out of full guard. He needs to grind this out and wait for an opportunity to grab an arm or a leg and go for a submission. An active top game out of Gomi and we’re looking at a grinding decision.
Diaz has weak takedown defense but counters with some beautiful submission work off his back. His game plan will most likely be prepping for the takedown and work to sweep Gomi once he’s there. Gomi has lost a number of times from guillotine and rear naked chokes so look for him to work his game plan around trying to sink one of those two in. I’d say more likely a guillotine choke, if only because Diaz has an effective one.
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