Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto (18-6, 1NC) will make his return this Saturday night after three years away from the cage when he faces off against Roman Salazar (9-3) in a bantamweight preliminary bout at UFC 184 from Staples Centre, in Los Angeles, California.
Injury stricken Yamamoto is without a win in the UFC, failing in his last three bouts. He suffered decision losses to Demetrious Johnson and Darren Uyenoyama in 2011; then on February 12, 2012 he was submitted by Vaughan Lee. Yamamoto was scheduled to fight Ivan Menjivar in September 2013 however withdrew from the fight.
Before being blighted by knee and elbow injuries “Kid” had a record of 17-1 via 12 TKO’s and two submissions. On May 2005 Yamamoto recorded one of the quickest knockouts in MMA history after he stopped Kazuyuki Miyata within four seconds of the first round with a flying knee at K-1 Hero’s 5.
His opponent Salazar has made a name for himself on the local circuit capped off a run of 4-0 with a first round submission win over Jose Carbajal in September 2014.
The 27 year-old then stepped in on short notice for Rob Font on October 4, to make his UFC debut against Mitch Gagnon, but itt was not the Octagon debut “El Gallito” had hoped for, being submitted in the first round.
Despite the defeat, Salazar showed that he was ready to step up against anyone on short notice and he has been rewarded with a call back to the promotion.
A win for Yamamoto is a good opportunity for the Japanese legend to regain the confidence which helped him earlier in his career. He no longer possesses traits such as his speed and ferocity which made him such a big star in Japan but his technical striking ability; often showcased in his early kickboxing bouts, and wrestling pedigree make him a tough test for anyone at 135lbs.
Arizona based Salazar is not to be underestimated though; he is a well-rounded fighter and although he does not have one stand out trade he is known for having a tight guillotine choke, which he has used to good effect in all three of his submission victories.
I still believe though this will be a positive return for Yamamoto, his experience and superior technique mean this is his to lose come Saturday night. Expect “Kid” to look for openings and utilise his accurate strikes and wrestling to get himself back on winning ways.
Article by Stephen Flynn.