I have lamented many times in the past that SILVA struggles with estimating the quality of once-great fighters on the decline. Such fighters include Fedor Emelianenko (47.35 SILVA), Matt Hughes (43.66), and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (47.58), despite his UFC 134 KO win over Brendan Schaub. The fourth and final once-great fighter that I feel SILVA overrates is none other than former PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi.
The thing about athletes who decline, in sports in general, is that once in a while, you see a glimpse of what made them great in the first place. Brett Favre’s decline was often hard to watch, but then he delivered an improbably good 2009 season as the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. I feel that way about Gomi. His performances against Kenny Florian and Clay Guida were difficult to watch. For the most part, Gomi had a difficult time putting up offense against those opponents, and he eventually faded to a submission loss in both cases.
But then, there was the moment that was reminiscent of greatness: Gomi’s fast KO win over Tyson Griffin. Gomi has long been known to have a rare kind of KO power for the lightweight division, and being able to showcase it against a tough opponent such as Griffin, in the fashion he did, was seriously impressive. That was the Takanori Gomi who was once legitimately the #1 lightweight fighter in the world.
As a Vikings fan, I will always remember Brett Favre’s last career game. Favre shockingly declared himself ready to play against the Chicago Bears at the frozen TCF Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, after the implosion of the Metrodome roof. Early on, Favre led an inspiring touchdown drive against one of the NFL’s toughest defenses. But later on, Favre got slammed into the turf, and when he didn’t pop back up, everybody watching knew it was over for his career. A brief glimmer of hope turned into a depressing letdown.
I’m a fan of Takanori Gomi too, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m preparing myself for that kind of letdown. It’s the same kind of letdown that happens after Mirko Cro Cop puts up a fairly good fight against Brendan Schaub, only to lose by brutal KO late in the third round. It’s the kind of feeling that happens when Fedor Emelianenko briefly knocks Dan Henderson down, only to lose by KO very shortly afterwards. It’s very much like Chuck Liddell taking the fight to Rich Franklin, before losing by sudden first-round KO.
The thing is: if a Gomi letdown is imminent, it won’t be because of a KO. His opponent is Nate Diaz, a fighter with three TKO wins on his record. Two of those took place early in Diaz’s career, against unknown opponents in Tony Juarez and Gilbert Rael. The other TKO win was relatively recent, but against a low-level UFC opponent in Rory Markham. Diaz features a similar boxing style to his brother, a high-volume, low-power attack that wears his opponents out, as opposed to crushing them quickly.
Unfortunately for Gomi, he’s shown himself to be particularly susceptible to the jab, so I would expect to see Gomi eating a very steady diet of jabs from Diaz (much like Gomi’s famous PRIDE 33 fight against Nick Diaz). Now, Gomi always has a wrecking ball of a left hand ready to counter, so he can’t be counted out, but the striking game shouldn’t just be awarded to Gomi here… I see that department of the fight as being very much up for grabs.
In the event that Gomi gets frustrated with the jab diet, and decides to take Diaz down, he’s asking for trouble there, since Diaz has multiple triangle choke and guillotine choke victories on his record. In fact, it seems that Diaz is something of a specialist in locking up submissions from bottom position. As Gomi was the fighter to lose by gogoplata to Nick Diaz (a fight changed to a no contest, but I won’t go into all of that), and as both of Gomi’s UFC losses are by submission, this is a rare occurrence in which I can’t say that Gomi has the advantage on the ground, even if he’s operating out of top position.
Check out Fight Metric’s numbers for Gomi’s PRIDE and UFC fights (as well as Gomi’s fight against B.J. Penn). In Gomi’s four losses (and keep in mind that this does not include the Diaz fight), Gomi landed just 1.19 Significant Strikes per minute. In Gomi’s 14 wins, he landed a much more robust 4.23 Significant Strikes per minute. This makes sense for a fighter as reliant on the KO as Gomi is. Against Kenny Florian, Gomi landed only 20 Significant Strikes in a fight that lasted 12:52, and against Clay Guida, Gomi landed just 14 Significant Strikes in a fight that lasted 9:27.
This means that whether or not Gomi wins may be highly dependent on how many strikes he’s able to land. It’s hard to score a KO if you’re only on pace to land 25 good strikes throughout the entirety of the fight. If Gomi can land strikes regularly, then he has a very good chance of winning, by either KO or decision. On the other hand, if Gomi looks like he did against Florian or Guida, he’s probably going to be picked apart.
SILVA PREDICTION: TAKANORI GOMI (43.46) OVER NATE DIAZ (29.21)
The “elite” distinction for MMA fighters is reserved for those with a rAP of 43.00 or higher. The idea behind a high rAP is that it represents a fighter who is able to consistently beat tough competition; the vast majority of fighters who have a SILVA score of 43.00 or higher have very few losses on their record, and have quite a few quality victories. This can’t be said of Takanori Gomi, a man who is just 3-4 in his last seven fights. It could easily be contended that Gomi should be taken out of the elite tier at lightweight.
If that’s the case, then Gomi’s SILVA score should be based on his Fight Level. And with a Fight Level of 17.82, that means that Gomi’s SILVA score would be estimated at 27.82, lower than the SILVA score of Nate Diaz. So it is that I’m going to go against SILVA here, and pick Diaz to beat Gomi.