"The Fireball Kid" is coming back, ladies and gentlemen.
After more than a year away from the cage, Japanese star Takanori Gomi will face Isaac Vallie-Flagg in his return at UFC 172 in Baltimore. The former Pride champion will be looking to shake off the controversial split-decision loss he took against Diego Sanchez back in March of last year when he steps in against the Jackson's MMA fighter on April 26.
News of the matchup was first reported by UFC.com, and Bleacher Report confirmed the bout with Vallie-Flagg on Tuesday night.
While Gomi's arrival to the UFC back in 2010 was highly touted, the 35-year-old hasn't quite lived up to expectations as he's managed three wins from his seven showings inside the Octagon.
After suffering back-to-back losses in 2011, Gomi rebounded in a solid fashion by defeating Eiji Mitsuoka and Mac Danzig, respectively. Yet any momentum the heavy-handed lightweight had built was brought to a halt when he was edged out by Sanchez in Japan last March.
He will be looking to get things back on track, and his opponent Vallie-Flagg will be looking to do the same.
The Albuquerque transplant was recently handed his first loss since 2007 when he was defeated by Elias Silverio at Fight Night 35 in Atlanta. Nevertheless, Vallie-Flagg has built an impressive record as he's gone 11-1 with one no-contest over that span.
The 35-year-old was originally slated to face Danny Castillo at UFC 172 but was tapped by the promotion to face Gomi on the card instead. The Team Alpha Male fighter will remain on the card with a new opponent to be named later, per UFC.com.
When asked about the change of opponent, Vallie-Flagg was in high spirits and grateful for the opportunity to face a fighter of Gomi's renown.
"It's a different matchup for me stylistically, but the opportunity to fight a legend like Gomi is awesome," Vallie-Flagg told Bleacher Report. "I jumped at the opportunity, and I couldn't be more excited for it. Gomi is a hard-hitting left-hander who likes to stand and bang. We both like to fight and it really could make for something exciting and kick things off right for the main card or wherever they place us. We are going to get after it and I think this has Fight of the Night written all over it.
"I wasn't happy with how I performed in my last fight, and I immediately went to work on fixing up the things I needed to. I added some new strength and conditioning and have all those issues worked out, so the fans are going to see a new and improved version of me in this next fight."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.