Goiti Yamauchi is at a different stage in his career than his opponent for Bellator MMA 229.
At least that is the way the Japanese native sees it. Saad Awad enters the Oct. 4 bout after two consecutive losses to Benson Henderson and most recently, Brandon Girtz in March.
Yamauchi is coming of a split decision win against Daniel Weichel at Bellator 210. The bout took place almost a year ago on Nov. 30, 2018.
“There’s a complete difference,” Yamauchi said. “I’m pretty sure he is not going to be ready for this, to fight against a guy like me.”
The path of these two lightweights are finally meeting inside the Bellator cage. Yamauchi is a 12-fight Bellator veteran with five bouts in the lightweight division.
Awad is a long-time staple as well with 19 contests under the Bellator banner. They both first signed with the promotion in 2013.
“Awad is a great fighter and he’s an exciting fighter,” Yamauchi said. “I wish him a healthy fight week and I hope he’s prepared to fight me Oct. 4.”
The last time they fought is not the only thing separating the two. Awad is coming off back-to-back losses for only the second time in his Bellator career.
Yamauchi’s victory over Weichel helped him re-enter the win column. Former champion Michael Chandler defeated Yamauchi via unanimous decision at Bellator 192 in January 2018. It snapped a three-fight win streak.
Going the full three rounds back-to-back is rare for Yamauchi, who won 18 of his 23 bouts by submission. According to him, he is different from the last time he stepped into the cage.
“I’m more mature, I’m more experienced, I’m older now and I think I’ve changed a lot,” he said. “I will show up as a completely different animal.”
Looking at the top
Awad was not Yamauchi’s first choice of opponent. He’s eyed Henderson since defeating Weichel last year.
Yamauchi is interested in Henderson’s long resume. A former UFC lightweight champion with 14 fights inside the octagon and another seven Bellator bouts to his name, Henderson is exactly the type of opponent he is looking for.
If Oct. 4 goes Yamauchi’s way, he knows who he wants next.
“I think he’s the biggest challenge that I have in the division, which is why I want to fight him,” Yamauchi said. “Sooner or later he will have to fight.”
This is the longest period of time Yamauchi has gone without a fight since 2015. He is where he belongs, whether it is against Awad, Henderson or even a rematch with Chandler.
His contest with Awad is giving Yamauchi exactly what he wants. It’s another step in his career.
“I love to compete, I love to fight,” Yamauchi said. “I can’t wait to get the win and I can’t wait to party after the fight, when I win.”
Connor Northrup once covered municipal meetings and promised himself never again. He is now combining his passion for Mixed Martial Arts and reporting all into one.