Once regarded by many as one of the top lightweights in the world, former Pride FC lightweight champion and Japanese MMA legend Takanori Gomi met his match Wednesday night as he squared off with TUF vet Kenny Florian in the main event of UFC Fight Night 21.
The event, held at the Bojangles Coliseum, marked the first time that the UFC has visited Charlotte, N.C., since UFC 5 in 1995. The event also marked Gomi’s UFC debut and his first fight in America since 2003.
Gomi and Florian exchanged on the feet for the majority of the main event, and Florian controlled the action. He utilized his four-inch reach advantage throughout the fight, landing stiff jabs from a distance, which took a toll on Gomi. Gomi shot for the takedown on the BJJ black belt in the first round, but was unable to get the fight to the ground or stay close enough to trade blows effectively.
In the last round Florian successfully took the fight to the ground, landed ground-and-pound, and used an arm triangle to pass to full mount. Florian used his BJJ to lock in a rear-naked choke as Gomi turned, forcing the tap at 2:52 into the third round. Florian outstriked Gomi 80-41, according to compustrike.com, and won “Submission of the Night” honors. Florian is expected to face Gray Maynard next in August, when the UFC visits his hometown of Boston, Massa.
In the co-main event, heavyweight Roy Nelson proved that his TUF win was no fluke and that he is ready for the UFC’s toughest competition by running through Stefan Struve in the first round. After a brief power outage the fight commenced, and Nelson didn’t let the reach advantage of the 6-foot-11-inch Struve become a factor in the fight.
Nelson pressed his opponent in the opening exchanges, closed the distance and landed an overhand right, which clipped Struve. He quickly followed up with another overhand right that dropped Struve. Nelson jumped on his opponent, landing ground-and-pound until the fight was stopped at 0:39 into the first round. Nelson outstriked Struve 9-2 in the match and won “Knockout of the Night” honors.
TUF vet and 12-fight UFC vet Jorge Rivera put on an impressive performance in a standup battle with fellow TUF vet and former UFC middleweight title challenger Nate Quarry in the second fight of the night. Rivera dominated the first round, dropping Quarry three times with strong rights, and nearly finished him.
Quarry got rocked with a left at the start of the second round and Rivera followed up with ground-and-pound, putting an end to the fight at 0:29 into the second round. The fight marked Rivera’s third consecutive UFC victory.
The first fight of the night featured an explosive lightweight battle between TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson and 8-fight UFC veteran Dennis Siver. The fighters traded back and forth on the feet for most of the fight. Pearson rocked his opponent several times in the fight and showed good takedown defense.
Pearson utilized his superior standup to earn a unanimous decision, with all three judges scoring the contest 30-27. The bout earned “Fight of the Night” honors. All fighters earning bonus honors earned $30,000.
A preliminary bout between Caol Uno and Gleison Tibau was also featured on the broadcast before the co-main event. Tibau overwhelmed Uno with punches in the contest, took his back, and pounded him out. The fight was stopped at 4:13 into the first round.
Overall, the Bojangles Coliseum had an attendance of 7,700 and a total gate of $590,685. The broadcast on Spike TV peaked at two million fans during the main event, according to mmapayout.com. The event was followed by the premier of the eleventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The next UFC event, UFC 112, will feature a middleweight champion match between Anderson Silva and Demian Maia, and a lightweight championship match between B.J. Penn and Frankie Edgar. The event will mark the UFC’s first trip to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Live pay-per-view coverage of the event will begin at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, April 10. The event will be re-aired at the UFC’s normal event time of 10 p.m. EST via delay.