Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri, Pride Bushido 9, September 2005
The lightweight division has always been an exciting weight class to watch. It is one of the most competitive divisions with a never ending talent pool to draw from. The fighters possess the right combination of speed, agility, and power – the perfect recipe for action packed, exciting, and technical fights.
However, before there were the lightweight champions that are so celebrated today. Before Rafael Dos Anjos, the newly crowned UFC Lightweight Champion. Before Anthony Pettis, before Benson Henderson, before Frankie Edgar, and even before the great BJ Penn. In the land of Pride, there was Takanori Gomi and Tatsuya Kawajiri.
In the early 2000s, Takanori Gomi established himself to be the most dominant and most dangerous Japanese fighters. He defeated the likes of Rumina Sato, Charles Bennett, Ralph Gracie, and even the great Jens Pulver who left the UFC to fight in Japan. In 2004, he defeated Sato to earn the Shooto Lightweight Championship. These accomplishments earned him a celebrity status in Japan and the name of “The Fireball Kid”.
Takanori Gomi would walk into the stadium, with his fire red hair, his piercing glare, and his dangerous overhand left. The usually uncomfortably stoic Japanese fans would completely lose their minds for their nations son, representing them at the highest level of MMA.
At the same time as Takanori Gomi was making his name in the fight world, Tatsuya Kawajiri was silently climbing the ranks. Takanori Gomi won the Shooto Lightweight Championships in 2001 but lost it in 2003. Tatsuya Kawajiri picked up the belt in 2004. Takanori Gomi considered Yves Edwards one of the most dangerous lightweight fighters that he hasn’t fought yet. Tatsuya Kawajiri beat him in 2003.
The Japanese fans were split. Fight fans were split. The MMA lightweight world was embroiled in debate. Who was the best lightweight fighter. The Fireball Kid or The Crusher. There was only one way to find out.
September 2005, Pride put on it’s very first welterweight and lightweight tournament. Pride Bushido 9 was the quarterfinal and semi-final rounds. The finals of the tournament would take place in December 2005 at Pride Shockwave 2005. This is the same tournament where we saw Dan Henderson knock out Ryo Chonan in under 30 seconds with Hendo reaching the finals against Murilo Bustamante.
Pride Bushido 9 gave us the very best lightweights in the world at the time, all under one roof, all in one ring. The quarterfinals included Jens Pulver vs Hayato Sakurai, Joachim Hansen vs Yves Edwards, Luiz Azeredo vs Naoyuki Kotani, and finally, what the fight world has been waiting for, Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri. It was assumed that whoever won the Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri fight, would go on to become the first Pride Lightweight Tournament Champion.
Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri is a spectacular fight with fast paced action. Just like what two world class lightweights would deliver. Fight fans know that both of these fighters have knockout power but also have chins cast from iron. It is unfortunate that many new fight fans only got to see Takanori Gomi and Tatsuya Kawajiri in Strikeforce or the UFC. These versions of Gomi and Kawajiri may be considered only shells of the spirited champions they once were. Ruling Japan MMA as The Fireball Kid and The Crusher. But for the time being, lets relive that great contest between two of the very best in MMA.
Takanori Gomi vs Tatsuya Kawajiri full fight video