There was a time when Kid Yamamoto's stock was as high, if not higher, than that of K-1 MAX uber-star Masato. When Kid's presence on a fight card would be a guarantee to put at least 15,000 bums on seats, if not more, and an instant ratings hit on television. With back-to-back losses in 2009 against opponents hand-picked for him to beat, Kid's stock plummeted. One feels that his return to Dynamite on New Year's Eve against Sengoku Featherweight Champion Masenori Kanehara is a last chance for Kid to redeem himself, win back the fans and recreate the aura of invincibility he once carried.
Though Kid's loss to Joe Warren at DREAM 9 can be debated -- some thought Kid had done enough to deserve the win -- the argument for the cause is irrelevant. Fact is that Kid failed to defeat an MMA rookie who was competing in only his second MMA fight (albeit an experienced wrestler, but still an MMA rookie). What was even worse, however, was the knockout Kid received under K-1 MAX rules at the Budokan from another rookie in the form of Korea's Jae Hee Cheon. Plucked from obscurity (or so K-1 thought -- any thorough research would have uncovered Cheon's extensive Muay Thai background), Cheon was to be a lamb to the slaughter at Kid's altar and a means to get Kid's name back in the winner's circle and his fans a reason to keep watching. It backfired in K-1's face as Kid was thoroughly flogged and then knocked out by a rampaging Cheon.
With these two losses, Kid's demi-God status among Japanese fight fans was lost and the aura of the "all powerful Kid Yamamoto" held in such high esteem by Western fans who had long fantasized about a Kid Yamamoto vs Urijah Faber showdown was gone. The immortal Kid Yamamoto had crashed to Earth with a resounding thud.
Norifumi 'Kid' Yamamoto, as Schiavello pointed out, once had this aura of invincibility in the eyes of most MMA fans. He was long considered as one of, if not the best fighter in the division, but his last two performances have tainted that image and brought him several spots down the ladder.
Kid is no doubt, one of the most popular fighters in Japan, but what would happen should he lose a third consecutive fight? Some people blamed his poor performances on the nagging injuries he has had in the past, but now that he says he has fully recovered, will the fans still be as forgiving? I doubt it. For Kid to stay relevant on today's MMA landscape, and to regain that image he once had, he has to win, and he has to win BIG. Against Sengoku champ, Masanori Kanehara though, that is certainly no easy task.