Norifumi Yamamoto and Vaughan Lee square off at the UFC 144 weigh-ins on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
At UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson, Norifumi Yamamoto (18-5, 1 NC; 0-2 UFC), better known to fans as Kid Yamamoto, faces Vaughan Lee (11-7-1; 0-1 UFC). This Bantamweight contest is the third of four fights on the prelims live on FX. Prelims begin this Saturday, February 25 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, with the PPV card beginning at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT. Neither Kid nor Lee are currently ranked in the USA TODAY / MMA Nation Consensus MMA Rankings.
This fight is on the card for one reason - to showcase the Japanese legend in front of his home country. With neither man even holding a win in the UFC, this is clearly not a battle with a tremendous amount of relevance to the Bantamweight division. But for fans who have watched Kid over the years, and have watched him struggle in the UFC, it's definitely a big deal - a chance to see this legend get one last shot at glory. If he does, expect a hero's welcome from the Japanese crowd. If Lee pulls off the upset, it will be a sad scene.
How do these two stack up?
Yamamoto: 34 years old | 5'4" | 66" reach
Lee: 29 years old | 5'5"
What have these two done recently?
How did these two get here?
Kid Yamamoto was, at one time, considered among the pound for pound elite in all of MMA. Using his combination of wrestling and steadily improving boxing, he dominated the lower weight class Japanese scene throughout the mid-2000's, putting together a powerful 17-1 record. In 2007, Kid announced his plans to step away from MMA to train for the Olympics. An injury in training ended those plans, and Kid came back to MMA, but some of his momentum was lost. Then, in 2008, he suffered a series of injuries that kept him out of action for over a year, and he's never been the same since. He returned in 2009, and is just 1-5 since that year layoff. It's been clear for awhile now that the career of Kid Yamamoto is at its end; the only question now is when will we see his final fight?
Vaughan Lee came up through the English MMA scene, training at the Ultimate Training Centre and fighting primarily in organizations like Cage Rage and Cage Gladiators. He put together an 11-6-1 record that includes a loss to Brad Pickett before getting the call up to the UFC. He made his Octagon debut at UFC 138, losing a split decision to Chris Cariaso. This will be his first fight outside of England. It's definitely a major step up for Lee, but a win will put him on the map.
Why should you care?
He may not have too much to offer these days, but come on, it's Kid Yamamoto fighting in Japan. And there aren't many more times you're going to see that.
For a more in-depth look at Yamamoto vs. Lee, be sure to read Dallas Winston's always excellent Dissection.
More UFC 144 preview coverage from Bloody Elbow after the jump.