(Yamamoto def. Federico ‘Kiko’ Lopez via KO, 1:41 of round 1, 5/29/10)
It’s a sad state of affairs when one of the greatest featherweight fighters of all time can arrive in the UFC with virtually zero fanfare, buried on a preliminary card dark-match against a young contender. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto enters the Octagon for the first time this Saturday at UFC 126, and while that would have been a major story three years ago, times have changed.
Yamamoto made his name in K-1′s MMA shows as a lightning-fast knockout artist, but his reputation took a major hit in 2008-2009, when he followed-up a long knee-injury layoff with two decision losses against Joe Warren and Masanori Kanehara. (He also divorced his hot wife in 2009. So, bad times all around.) Last year, Yamamoto dropped to bantamweight for the first time in his career to face journeyman Federico Lopez at Dream.14. Showing flashes of his old self, he finished the fight in less than two minutes, crumpling Lopez with a right hook and smashing him with shots on the ground until the ref intervened.
Of course, it’s too early to say that the Kid is "back" — his opponent, Demetrious Johnson, is a tough customer who’s looked impressive in his last two wins in the WEC, and having a successful Octagon debut is easier said than done. Can Yamamoto jump-start his career in the U.S., or is it too late for him to make an impact? Check out some of his greatest victories after the jump, and remember the good times…
(Yamamoto def. Rani Yahya via TKO, 3:11 of round 2, 12/31/07)
(Yamamoto def. Kazuyuki Miyata via KO, 0:04 of round 1, 5/3/06)
(Yamamoto def. Genki Sudo via TKO, 4:39 of round 1, 12/31/05)
(Yamamoto def. Royler Gracie via KO, 0:38 of round 2, 9/7/05)
(Yamamoto def. Jadamba Narantungalag via KO, 1:55 of round 1, 10/13/04)
(Yamamoto def. Caleb Mitchell via KO, 0:40 of round 1, 9/5/03)
(Yamamoto def. Tetsuo Katsuta via TKO, 2:45 of round 1, 9/16/02 — the infamous "Kid won’t stop hitting that guy" fight)