Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto is set to return from a 16-month hiatus, which will be extended to 19 months by the time the Japanese bantamweight meets Ivan Menjivar at UFC 165 on Sept. 21.
Despite losing five of his past six bouts and going winless inside the Octagon, Yamamoto will be meeting a top-10 bantamweight in Menjivar. With losses to Urijah Faber and Mike Easton in his past three appearances, Menjivar is currently hanging onto the No. 10 spot in the official UFC bantamweight rankings, but he's much closer to the top of the division than Yamamoto.
At 36 years old, Yamamoto is declining, but he still has the knockout power to worry many potential 135-pound opponents. In his most recent outing, Yamamoto rocked Vaughan Lee before getting caught in a submission.
In most cases, a fighter who suffered four straight losses after being signed to the UFC roster would have no chance of being retained by the promotion. However, in this situation, it would appear Yamamoto is safe in the short term.
Had the UFC been looking to part ways with Yamamoto, it easily could have done so following his loss to Lee, but it instead gave him a step up in competition. For that reason, Yamamoto should have at least a couple of more UFC appearances in him unless he is looking at this bout as one last chance to win a big fight before retiring.
Headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson, UFC 165 will be held at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. A bout between TUF alumni Ramsey Nijem and Mike Ricci has also been announced for the fight card.
Sean Smith is a Featured MMA Columnist for Bleacher Report who has also had work promoted on UFC.com and TheMMACorner.com. Follow on Twitter @SeanSmithMMA.
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