A submission specialist with 15 Octagon appearances under his belt, Rani Yahya has been through a lot in the UFC, but many main cards is not one of those things.
Paired up against Ricky Simon on the main card of UFC 234, the 34-year-old believes things could be different for him if he scores another one of his signature submission wins.
In his last three outings, Yahya has managed to tap out Henry Briones, Russell Doane and Luke Sanders, all via different kinds of submission holds, so scoring another one on a PPV main card could be the opportunity he’s been waiting for to jump into the upper echelon of his division.
“It sure is a big opportunity, being on a PPV, just one fight before the co-main event, that’s an opportunity I’ve been pursuing for a long time,” Yahya told Bloody Elbow. “I think this fight could be my ticket for a top-ranked opponent in my next fight. After all, once I pick up this win, it’ll be a four-fight win streak and that’ll get the matchmakers’ attention.”
Prospect Ricky Simon is undefeated in his two Octagon appearances and has only suffered one loss in his 15-fight professional career, back in March 2016. However, Yahya feels like the difference in experience could be the key for him to pick up his fourth straight win.
“I believe my experience counts a lot,” Yahya said. “I’ve been through everything in the Octagon. I’ve been on this road for a while. He might think he knows what I’ll do, but he’ll never know how I’ll do it. To me, it’s even better if he’s studying me, because I can plan my strategy already expecting his reaction. I studied him pretty well, too. He always relies on his wrestling to win, especially when things start getting tough in the stand-up. That’s something that could favor me, too.”
UFC 234 takes place in Melbourne, Australia on February 9th (February 10th in Australia). It will be headlined by a middleweight title fight between the champion, Robert Whittaker, and challenger Kelvin Gastelum.