By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly
For all of the high profile fights that took place over the weekend, the two biggest match-ups featured lightweight fighters going for titles in their respective organizations. Takanori Gomi proved once again why he is the very best lightweight fighter in the world by defeating the bigger and more experienced Hayato “Mach” Sakarai in the finals of the Pride lightweight tournament. While Gomi was getting his championship, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was winning his first major title in MMA by beating “The Neo-Samurai” Genki Sudo in the finals of the K-1 Hero’s lightweight tournament.
What else can be said about Takanori Gomi that hasn’t already been said this year?
Gomi had an absolutely unbelievable 2005 and very few fighters have had to face the level of talent that he did in such a short span of time over the last 12 months. If you count his end of the year performance from 2004 in which he knocked out highly rated fighter Jens Pulver in Pride, Gomi managed 6 wins this year and beat a who’s who list of fighters.
Takanori Gomi was able to chalk up 3 victories over the famed Chute Boxe academy with two wins over Luiz Azeredo and a win over Jean Silva. Gomi was also faced with possibly the toughest match-up in the Pride lightweight tournament when he drew Tatsuya Kawajiri in the very first round. Many thought that this would end up being the tournament finals had they been on opposite sides of the bracket, but Pride decided to give fans the enjoyment of seeing the topped ranked pair go at it in the first round instead.
Gomi was able to defeat Kawajiri in spectacular fashion and also win his next fight, setting up his run to the tournament finals, this time taking on another Japanese legend in Hayato “Mach” Sakarai. Not only did Gomi win again but he KO’d Sakarai and took home the lightweight title.
Now Gomi is starting to be seen in the same light as another Pride champion by the name of Fedor Emelianenko, making fans wonder if they’ll ever see him lose again. It’s hard to believe that just over 2 years ago, Gomi was coming off back to back losses, one by decision to Joachim Hansen and the second being a devastating loss by choke to B.J. Penn at Rumble on the Rock (which goes a long way to proving just how good B.J. Penn may be as well.)
Gomi’s dominance in 2005 will surely lead him to some great fights in 2006, but he will be hard pressed to improve upon his performance from the last year.
Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto definitely came out of nowhere when he started his run in K-1’s Hero’s tournament earlier this year. While “Kid” Yamamoto was definitely a huge favorite in Japan, he faced some very stiff competition on his way to the finals of the tournament.
Defeating both Royler Gracie and Caol Uno went a long way to proving that Kid belonged with the big boys, so to speak, in the lightweight division, but he had a very tough final fight with Genki Sudo, who has long been regarded as a top level fighter in the weight class. Again, Kid Yamamoto was able to prove himself, this time by knocking out Sudo in the first round, and become the first ever K-1 lightweight champion.
Both fights proved that the lightweight division is extremely deep and each organization has a champion they can be proud of. Congratulations go out to both Takanori Gomi and Kid Yamamoto for their outstanding performances.