SAN DIEGO, August 1 – The demise of Japanese MMA has apparently been greatly exaggerated, as middleweight Yushin Okami and lightweight Takanori Gomi delivered big wins at the San Diego Sports Arena Sunday night on one of the biggest nights fighters from the Land of the Rising Sun have ever delivered in the UFC Octagon.
In the co-main event of the UFC on Versus 2 card, 185-pound contender Okami held off the charge of local favorite Mark Munoz to earn a three round split decision win.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Okami, who improves to 26-5; Munoz falls to 8-2.
The action was measured early on, punctuated by haymakers from both fighters that just missed the mark. As the round progressed, Okami began getting closer with his strikes as Munoz threatened takedowns. Midway through the round, Munoz attempted to shoot but was rebuffed by Okami. With 1:40 left though, Munoz did get his foe to the mat, albeit briefly, as Okami scrambled back up and kept Munoz from his bread and butter attack for the rest of the round.
Okami and Munoz began pressing the action more in round two, with Okami landing punches upstairs and Munoz reddening his opponent’s side with a kick. At the midway point, Munoz rocked and dropped Okami with a punch to the head, and while the Japan native recovered quickly, when he got up, Munoz went for the finish. After some tense moments, Okami shook off the cobwebs and got back to stuffing his foe’s takedown attempts.
The two traded big shots early in the third, with Okami getting the better of the exchanges. He also seemed to be the fresher of the two, and Munoz’ takedown attempts were getting more and more desperate. With two minutes gone, Okami dropped Munoz with a right hand, and though the Californian recovered immediately, it was a big points scoring blow for ‘Thunder’, who ended the bout turning back another takedown attempt from his opponent.
Just when he was written off, Japanese superstar Takanori Gomi resurrected his career with a single right hand in the main card opener, knocking out Tyson Griffin in the first round.
Griffin looked sharp early as he stood at close range and pecked at Gomi with punches and low kicks. But after one subsequent kick to the leg, the longtime PRIDE lightweight champ pounced with a right hook to the head that dropped Griffin to the mat face first. Referee Jason Herzog immediately stepped in to halt the bout at the 1:04 mark, and while Griffin protested the stoppage, his wobbly legs as he rose told the tale.
With the win, his first in the UFC after losing his Octagon debut to Kenny Florian earlier this year, Gomi improves to 32-6 with 1 NC; Griffin, who was stopped for the first time in his career, falls to 14-4.
Welterweight up and comer Jake Ellenberger ate some hard shots from John Howard in their eagerly-anticipated bout, but with unstoppable takedowns and an effective ground attack that nearly swelled his opponent’s eye shut, he was able to score a third round TKO over the Boston native.
Ellenberger tore after Howard with bombs at the opening bell, and ‘Doomsday’ eagerly fired back. After that initial burst, the two locked up and battled against the fence. After a stalemate, referee Herb Dean broke the two up and restarted the action. Ellenberger responded with a takedown, and though he was landing with strikes from the top position, the crowd was getting restless. Moments later, Dean stood the fighters up, and after landing a few shots upstairs, Ellenberger took his foe down again and landed with more ground strikes until the bell.
Howard opened the second round with a jarring right kick to the side of Ellenberger’s head, hurting the Omaha native. Howard tried to finish matters, but Ellenberger got a takedown that allowed him the time he needed to recover and keep the action on the mat. After an extended period on the mat, the two stood and again Howard got the better of the standup, leading to an Ellenberger takedown and more ground strikes for the rest of the round.
With a nearly closed left eye after Ellenberger’s ground attack, Howard went for broke in the final round, nearly catching his foe flush with a knee to the head. As the two circled each other warily after that exchange, Ellenberger suddenly jumped into action with another takedown. With 2:43 left, Dean halted the bout for the Octagonside physician to check Howard’s eye and he immediately recommended the stoppage, which Dean called at 2:21 of the final frame.
With the victory, Ellenberger improves to 23-5; Howard, who lost his first UFC bout after four straight wins, falls to 14-5.
Okami and Gomi Deliver for Japan
The Japanese MMA scene got a boost in San Diego Sunday night as Yushin Okami and Takanori Gomi both won big...