Years in the making, Japanese superstar Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto will make his Octagon debut at UFC 126, against WEC transfer Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.
The bout is set for Super Bowl weekend at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Roaring to a 17-1 start in his career, fighting almost exclusively for Shoot, K-1, and Dream, Yamamoto hasn’t been nearly as successful recently. He’s 1-2 in his past three fights, losing to current Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren and former Sengoku featherweight champion Masanori Kanehara. He righted the ship by knocking out Federico Lopez in May, which was also Yamamoto’s bantamweight debut.
Those three bouts were spread out over the course of the past three years due to a Yamamoto knee injury and the volatile mixed martial arts scene in Japan.
Known for his explosive striking style and highlight reel knockouts – 13 of his 18 wins have come via knockout – Yamamoto has long been on UFC president Dana White’s hit list, once he was free and clear of contractual obligations in Japan.
That day finally came recently with White announcing Yamamoto’s signing on his official Twitter account.
His first bout for the UFC will come with less fanfare than expected. While fans are calling for a bout between Yamamoto and the likes of former WEC champions Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres, he will instead enter the Octagon on the preliminary portion of the UFC 126 fight card to face WEC transfer Demetrious Johnson.
Johnson may not have the name recognition of Faber or Torres, but he has proven to be one of the bantamweight division’s toughest competitors in his short time with the WEC, now transitioning to the UFC.
Johnson dropped his first bout in the promotion, to Top 10 fighter Brad Pickett, but has since won back-to-back fights against Nick Pace and Damacio Page. Training under legendary coach Matt Hume, Johnson is eyeing a rough welcome to the Octagon for Yamamoto.
UFC 126, on Feb. 6, features UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva defending his belt against Vitor Belfort in the main event, as well as a light heavyweight showdown between Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin.