After 22 professional MMA fights, the 23-year-old Brazilian-Japanese fighter has decided to move up from featherweight to lightweight, and his first test at 155 pounds will be Ryan Couture on Oct. 21 in Memphis.
Coming off a decision loss to featherweight prospect Bubba Jenkins in March, Yamauchi says his seven-fight run as a 145-pounder taught him a lot.
"The biggest learning is that I was in the wrong division. That’s it," Yamauchi told MMA Fighting. "I also spent too much energy in the wrong positions, I wasn’t patient. I believe I have learned the lessons I needed to become a great champion. I will be back better and stronger as a lightweight.
"Everything happened in the right time. I’m more motivated now as a lightweight," he continued. "I’m still very young, I’m growing as a man, gaining muscle, and I can’t fight against that. That’s who I am. I got where I could as a featherweight, and it’s time to do the same thing as a lightweight."
Yamauchi scored four stoppage victories during his 5-2 run under the Bellator banner, and knows that a win over a popular name like Couture would immediately put him up in the rankings.
"I don’t even think about that right now, actually. I have to be patient," Yamauchi slows down. "I’m still very young. The peak in our sport is around 32 years old, so I’m still very young. I still have a lot to learn and do. It’s really hard to become champion in a division like this."
Like Yamauchi, Couture also looks to get back on track in Memphis after having his impressive four-fight submission streak snapped by Patricky Freire in January. With the majority of his wins coming by way of submission, Yamauchi sees Couture as an ideal match-up style-wise.
"I’m happy with this match-up," Yamauchi said. "It’s going to be a great fight for the fans. He has a good style for me. The last guys to defeat me went there to get me close to the fence and pretty much do nothing, so I have to be prepared for it. I’m sure they will always try to do the same thing.
"I’m expecting him to be at his best and put me in the worst situation possible. If he does that and I’m well prepared standing and on the ground, I will frustrate him and be superior during the fight."
Excited to be back in the winning column, Yamauchi aims to impress in his first appearance as a lightweight and stop the UFC and Strikeforce veteran.
"I usually don’t make predictions, but I’m positive this fight won’t go the distance," Yamauchi said. "I don’t want any of my fights going to the judges anymore. That won’t happen. I’m going there to knock him out or submit him before the third round."