This is a guest post by James Goyder
There was a lot of focus on Phil Baroni before the catch weight fight with Yoshiyuki Yoshida at One FC 1, as there always is when the New York Bad Ass is fighting. But amidst all the hype about his opponent, it was easy to overlook the fact that this was an equally seminal fight for Yoshida's career.
After suffering consecutive losses, the Japanese Judoka was staring retirement right in the face until his knock out win over Ferrid Kheder in France earlier this year. It was the first time that Kheder had ever been stopped and this performance helped revitalize Yoshida's career,
"Before that Kheder fight I lost three in a row so I was feeling bit down till end of last year but when the new year began, I felt I got something back in my game so I was actually confident going into that fight in France and I am so happy that I did prove that I can still win the fight. I only began doing MMA at age 30 so I am still developing as a fighter."
That win gave him a bit of momentum going into the match up with Baroni but it was still a make or break moment in Yoshida's career. With 7,000 people packed in the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and plenty more watching on an internet stream, One FC offered him the opportunity to show the world that he was far from finished as a fighter.
It was a chance that he seized with both hands, executing his game plan immaculately to win a comfortable decision over Baroni,
"My plan early was to take him down or put him against the fence to engage in the grappling and clinching game. I know Baroni's hands are heavy and strong, so I needed to avoid that especially in the early part of the fight. I also knew he always had a trouble with his cardio so I wanted to clinch him early to cut down on his speed, stamina, and arm power. When I first clinched him I did feel that he is strong but I was able to use my Judo move to take the fight to the ground."
Yoshida was able to frustrate Baroni with these tactics for the full 15 minutes. It was not the most fan friendly approach but he feels it was necessary to defeat a far more muscular opponent, who had moved the bout to 175 lbs because of concerns about his ability to make the welterweight limit,
"I wanted to finish Baroni. I am always looking to finish the opponent but he was much bigger than me so I spent a little too much energy trying to hold him down and I wanted to win with a tap out but just couldn't. My plan was to choke him out with some submission around his neck. From the second round Baroni obviously slowed down so I was able to stay calm. But I knew he had that KO power in his hands so I was still being very cautious though."
The win had some people speculating that Yoshida might be given one more chance by the UFC, particularly with a card in Japan coming up. However he says he has eyes only for One FC and is looking to become their first welterweight champion,
"I would like to sign a multi-fight deal with One FC because the show was great. The fans were awesome. And if One FC ever makes a title at 170 lbs, I want to be One FC's inaugural champion."
His friend Akihiro Gono had front row seats to see him grind his way to a decision win over Baroni and Yoshida hopes to see him added to the One FC lightweight roster,
"After the fight Gono came to the dressing room and congratulated me. I train with him once a while so he is one of my friends. He has a very good record and experiences of fighting in, pretty much, all of the major MMA shows, and he is a big name so if he can fight for the One FC that would be fantastic."
Yoshida was also pleasantly surprised by the quantity of people back home who watched him in action and believes that there is likely to be an influx of Japanese fighters into One FC,
"Almost all of my friends watched the fight live on the net, and I got many many messages from the fans via facebook so I think many people in Japan saw that fight. Many fans and fighters came to congratulate me so that is a sign that they have watched my fight in the One FC. Also the Japanese MMA media covered One FC well so MMA fans and fighters in Japan are now really looking at One FC."
An announcement is believed to be imminent about the date of the second One FC show which probably won't be until December. There are a couple of welterweights already on the One FC roster such as Gregor and Igor Gracie with former TUF contestant and long time Asian resident Ray Elbe also spotted in the audience in Singapore.
With One FC recently announcing plans to recruit 150 employers and fighters claiming to have been offered 10 fight contracts the future looks very bright indeed for anyone involved with this brand new promotion. Yoshida is entitled to feel he has earned the long term contract he craves and with it would surely come a shot at the One FC welterweight belt.