Kid Yamamoto - Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The UFC has finalized the card for its February return to Japan at the Saitama Super Arena with the addition of two more bouts to the UFC 144 lineup. Bantamweights, Norifumi Yamamoto and Vaughan Lee, will square off, as will Leonard Garcia and Zhang Tiequan in featherweight action. The UFC confirmed both bookings late Sunday night:
"Kid" Yamamoto will go to battle against British bantamweight Vaughan Lee, fighting for the first time in almost two years in his home country. Plus, China's Tiequan Zhang and the always-game Leonard Garcia have agreed to meet inside the Octagon on that date.
It's no surprise that the UFC is utilize as much of its Asian roster as possible on this card, but all four fighters involved in these bouts are in desperate need of a win to establish their relevance, despite the relatively uncrowded waters at 135 and 145 lbs.
Despite getting handled in his UFC debut, the once highly-touted Yamamoto was still seen as a heavy favorite in his bout against Darren Uyenoyama earlier this month, but "Kid" ended up getting handily out-grappled again and losing another decision, despite managing to land a few solid during the brief amount of time he spent on the feet against Uyenoyama. Lee made his debut in his native England at UFC 138 against kickboxing specialist, Chris Cariaso. Although he was billed as a submission specialist, Lee looked pretty helpless on the ground with Cariaso, and found himself getting his guard passed and mounted repeatedly.
Leonard Garcia is in the midst of a two-fight losing streak, although many would argue that the streak would be quite a bit longer than that if it weren't for some controversial decisions that ended up in Garcia's favor. Most recently, he lost his rematch against Nam Phan, although a defensive lapse on Phan's part in the final round nearly earned Garcia a come-from-beind victory. Zhang, meanwhile, was at one time seen as China's first big MMA star, but underwhelming performances in losses against the likes of Danny Downes and Darren Elkins have squelched many of those hopes.
The full UFC 144 card on February 26th, now includes:
-Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson - UFC lightweight championship
-Quinton Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
-Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt
-Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
-Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis
-Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
-Riki Fukuda vs. Steve Cantwell
-Norifumi Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
-Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris Cariaso
-Takanori Gomi vs. George Sotiropoulos
-Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski
-Tiequan Zhang vs. Leonard Garcia