Photo by Daniel Herbertson for Sherdog
Yesterday, in not-surprising-but-unexpected news, word leaked out that Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto signed a deal with the UFC. Today, MMA Weekly provides more details of "Kid's" jump into Zuffa-land:
Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto is coming to the UFC and MMAWeekly.com has confirmed his first fight. The Japanese superstar will meet Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson in a bantamweight fight, likely to take place at UFC 126 on Super Bowl weekend in Las Vegas.
There's a lot to like about this. For starters, Demetrious Johnson, ranked 14th at bantamweight in the USA Today/SBNation consensus rankings, is a credible opponent for Yamamoto. Johnson is coming off victories over Nick Pace and 11th ranked Damacio Page.
The real story, however, is Yamamoto fighting at bantamweight. "Kid," at a thin-framed 5'4", made his name in K-1 Hero's fighting mostly at the equivalent of 155 pounds. In 2005, he defeated Caol Uno and Genki Sudo en route to winning Hero's Middleweight Grand Prix. He capped his tournament performance by flattening Kazuyuki Miyata in four seconds in May of 2006.
In 2007, Yamamoto defeated Rani Yahya, currently ranked 10th at bantamweight, and Bibano Fernandes, Dream's current featherweight champion. "Kid" was supposed to make his Dream debut, after K-1 parent company FEG scrapped the Hero's concept, at Dream 5 against Joseph Benavidez, but a knee injury officially kept Yamamoto off the event. Around the same time, the Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Gendai indicated Yamamto as a "regular" marijuana user, which carries a stigma in Japanese society.
Yamamoto returned to lose a split decision to then 1-0 Joe Warren in the quarter finals of Dream's featherweight tournament. He then dropped two straight fights for the first time in his career with a loss to Masanori Kanehara. He rebounded in May of this year by knocking out little-known Team Quest fighter Federico Lopez in his bantamweight debut.