Goiti Yamauchi has become a serious problem amongst the Bellator Welterweight division’s elite.
Primarily a Lightweight throughout his Bellator career, Yamauchi, 29, began his run with the promotion in Sept. 2013 as a Featherweight and has gone on to rack up nine submission victories total, making him the record holder. Along with all-time Bellator submission leader, Yamauchi is also the first fighter in promotional history to earn wins and finishes in three different divisions after most recently scoring his biggest win yet at Bellator 284 two weeks ago (Aug. 12, 2022).
Yamauchi (28-5) took on a fellow grappling ace, Neiman Gracie, as the event headliner in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Yamauchi impressed mightily with a second round knockout. The loss was Gracie’s first time being finished and launched the Anjo, Aichi, Japan native to the No. 6 spot in the 170 pound rankings.
“I thought that we would exchange a little bit of grappling and we did but just a little bit,” told MMA Mania. “I had two great takedowns, I passed his guard but I couldn’t develop too much because I realized that he was too comfortable on the ground and he was not comfortable on the feet. So, like I’m always saying; play smart. You’ve got to play in your opponent’s weakness, you don’t play in his strength.”
With great momentum having won three straight (two at Welterweight), Yamauchi has his sights set on that Bellator strap. However, he’ll need to wait for the undisputed and interim titles to be unified upon Yaroslav Amosov’s return where he’ll inevitably rematch Logan Storley. In the meantime, Yamauchi can chase another title thanks to Bellator’s friendly relationship with RIZIN Fighting Federation.
If offered the opportunity to challenge for RIZIN Lightweight champion Roberto “Satoshi” de Souza’s title ... how could Yamauchi say no?
“100 percent,” Yamauchi responded. “Just give me two months to cut the weight and we’ll accept this fight for sure. I would love to fight him.
“I’m always gonna ask for an opportunity when I have these opportunities to fight in Japan,” he continued. “Most of my family, they are out there. I love the Japanese fans, I love that country, it’s my country, my heart lives in Japan still. I feel I’m home when I’m in Japan. I can’t wait to come back for Bellator or even RIZIN, I will always ask for this opportunity. I can’t wait to come back.”
Despite being born in Japan, Yamauchi resides in Curitiba, Brazil, and has only fought once in his native country. Taking on Daron Cruickshank as part of Bellator and RIZIN’s big 2019 year-end doubleheader in Saitama, Yamauchi scored the first round submission win, utilizing his favorite technique, the rear-naked choke.
Yamauchi highlights the moment as one of the best moments of his life and something that felt like “a dream come true.” It only makes sense that he’d be open to revisiting whenever possible.
Ultimately, Yamauchi expects at least one more fight before he gets his wish, and that’s a crack at Bellator Welterweight gold. Predicting Amosov to defeat Storley once again, the savvy submission ace will go through whoever is put in front of him.
“I think not just my opponent but the way I finish him gave me great credit within the division,” Yamauchi said of the Gracie win. “It put me in a good position in the rankings but not just the rankings, but to make my next fight probably against a top 5 [guy]. I was thinking about maybe Jason Jackson or even [Douglas] Lima. Then we don’t know the situation of the real champion and the interim champion, Logan Storley, we don’t know about him (Amosov), when he’s going to come back to training from that sad situation in his country. So, let’s see what happens. But I hope to fight one more fight then fight for the title. That’s my wish.”