Takanori Gomi and Vaughan Lee led the winners on the UFC 144 preliminary card Sunday morning in Japan. With three finishes, one clear decision, and one controversial judges decision, the prelims entertained the crowd at Saitama Super Arena and those watching on FX.
Takanori Gomi vs. Eiji Mitsuoka
Gomi shined in his home country of Japan, coming back from near defeat and getting the technical knockout over Mitsuoka in the last prelim fight of the UFC 144 card.
Gomi, who is known for the power in his hands, felt the power in Mitsuoka’s hands in the first round. Mitsuoka landed several punches before landing a right hand that dropped Gomi to the canvas. He mounted Gomi and nearly got a triangle, but time in the round ran out.
Gomi began a comeback early in the second round, pressuring Mitsuoka and landing punches. Gomi continued the barrage on the ground as Mitsuoka exposed his back. Gomi landed punch after punch before the referee stepped in to stop the contest.
The finish came at 2:21 of the second round.
Gomi, the last Pride lightweight champion, addressed the Japanese fans after collecting the win in front of his fellow countryman.
“The ‘Fireball Kid’ is back!” he proclaimed with enthusiasm.
Gomi gets back on the winning track after two losses in a row. Mitsuoka loses his UFC debut and first fight in three outings.
Norihumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Vaughan Lee
Lee defeated one of his heroes in Kid Yamamoto, securing the armbar for the first-round submission win. Yamamoto landed a few right hooks that wobbled his opponent, but Lee turned up the heat later, landing a few strikes of his own.
Yamamoto got the takedown, but Lee worked well from his back, transitioning from a triangle to armbar. The submission was deep and Yamamoto had no choice but to submit, as the finish came at 4:29 of round one.
In victory, Lee told Joe Rogan, “I’m just the happiest person in the world right now.”
Yamamoto, however, was far from happy after getting submitted in his home country. “I’m disappointed,” he said. “I really wanted to win in Japan.”
Riki Fukuda vs. Steve Cantwell
Fukuda and Cantwell had a very close first round, but the Japanese fighter dominated the next two rounds for the unanimous decision. Cantwell appeared to slow down in the second round, absorbing punishment on the feet. The third round proved no different, as Fukuda finished out the fight scoring points from a standing position.
Judges scored the contest 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27 in Fukuda’s favor.
Takeya Mizugaki vs. Chris Cariaso
Mizugaki and Cariaso went the distance in their prelim fight. Mizugaki appeared to out-strike his opponent and get the edge in takedowns, but the judges saw it in Cariaso’s favor. A chorus of boos rang as the 29-28 unanimous decision was read to the Japanese crowd.
Tiequan Zhang vs. Issei Tamura
The one and only Facebook fight of the preliminary card started the evening with a thrilling knockout. Tamura threw an overhand-right, landing it perfectly on Zhang’s chin in the second round. The fight was stopped and Tamura was awarded the win just 32 seconds after the round began.