Just finished watching the airing of the UFC 126 preliminary fight between Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto and Demetrious Johnson on Facebook.
This was Yamamoto's much anticipated debut under the Zuffa corporation, and it was a disappointing start for the Japanese veteran as he dropped a unanimous 30-27 decision to the American Johnson. Despite the fight being a little slow, I am sure I am not the only one who saw a mini Rashad Evans with the style Johnson was employing against Yamamoto throughout all three rounds of the bantamweight contest.
Like Evans, Johnson has a strong wrestling base, and against Yamamoto, he exhibited the speed and explosiveness of the former light heavyweight champion. Johnson mixed the quickness in his striking and the explosiveness of his take downs to keep Yamamoto off balance.
If one watches Rashad Evans' most recent fights against Thiago Silva and Quinton Jackson, it is hard not to draw comparisons between those fights and Johnson's fight with Yamamoto. Johnson even got caught with a big knee at one point, just as Rashad had been caught in his two last fights against Silva and Jackson.
Despite the impressiveness of Johnson's performance, there is one other thing he seems to share with Evans that people have been critical of. Like Evans, Johnson struggled to finish the fight and keep his opponent where he wanted him—on his back. Despite being able to put Yamamoto on his back at will, Johnson was never able to mount any offense from top position; furthermore, Yamamoto was easily able to get back to his feet shortly after every one of Johnson's take downs.
Johnson has a lot of submission finishes on his record, so to say he doesn't finish fights is a stretch. However, like Rashad Evans, since the level of competition has risen for Johnson, the finishes have been harder to come by with three of his last four fights resulting in decisions.
In any case, Johnson did out-wrestle a great wrestler in Yamamoto tonight regardless of whether he got the finish or not. Combine Johnson's wrestling with his speed, explosiveness and a few wins and Johnson just may become the bantamweight version of Rashad Evans.
Leon Horne has been contributing to The Bleacher Report for two years now. He focuses mainly on mixed martial arts, but he has also written about tennis, football and hockey. Just send him a message if you want to talk sports or discuss any opportunities.
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