If you can't stop Rani Yahya from taking you down, you're going to have little chance of beating him. It was Mizuto Hirota who found it out for himself first-hand at Saturday's UFC on FUEL 8 event in Saitama, Japan.
Hirota struggled to stay on his feet in the first two rounds, and though he mounted a late comeback attempt, his early issues were simply too much to overcome. All three judges scored the bout for Yahya by 29-28 scores.
Yahya, a second-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has won prestigious competitions in that martial art, showed his mastery of it, dominating Hirota on the ground. Yahya had no problem slicing through his guard and passing for dominant positions.
In the first, Yahya used it to earn mount and land punches and elbows from the top. In the second, he searched for the submission. He appeared to have an arm triangle choke locked up. Hirota was able to keep just enough space to keep himself safe, but he spent the vast majority of the round on his back, making it an easy round to score.
The third was easily Hirota's best round, as Yahya ran out of gas and Hirota turned up his pace. While Yahya earned four takedowns in the first two rounds, he completed just one of seven in the third. The emboldened Hirotat threatened from the bottom with a triangle/armbar combination, but even after Yahya escaped, Hirota had more up his sleeve, chasing him down with a flying knee and then unleashing a barrage that lasted to the final horn.
Still it was too little, too late for Hirota, who had been making his featherweight debut after coming over from Strikeforce. The loss dropped his record to 14-6-1.
Yahya, who has won three of his last four, is now 18-7.