With painful weight cuts in the rearview mirror, Bellator talent Goiti Yamauchi finally feels at his best.
The Brazilian-Japanese prospect signed with Bellator in 2013 after racking up an impressive 12-1 record as a featherweight in Brazil, and continued to showcase his skills in the North American cage with a pair of quick finishes later that year. But then Yamauchi began to struggle, going 3-2 in his next five bouts, and he decided to make a few changes in his life.
A little over a year ago, Yamauchi told Bellator he wanted to move up to lightweight in order to cut less weight, and was offered a fight against UFC and Strikeforce veteran Ryan Couture. Couture only lasted 61 seconds before tapping to an armbar. Seven weeks later, Yamauchi was back in action and choking out Valeriu Mircea in Italy.
“Cutting weight is never easy, but it’s easier and healthier now,” Yamauchi told MMA Fighting. "It’s better for my body. That’s something I should have done a long time ago. I can perform better in training as well when I’m training to fight at 155."
Now set to return from a long layoff with a lightweight matchup against Adam Piccolotti at Saturday’s Bellator 183 event in San Jose, Calif., Yamauchi says competing at 155 pounds also helped him improve his already dangerous submission skills.
"(My jiu-jitsu is) way better at lightweight,” he said. "I have more pressure, I can get to better positions, and it’s even easier to think. My jiu-jitsu flows betters now because I don’t have to suffer to make weight. I used to think about making weight more than anything else."
Piccolotti also possesses a good ground game, having tapped four opponents en route to a perfect 9-0 MMA record. But Yamauchi doesn’t seem too impressed.
"He’s a good competitor, a good fighter, but I’ll have to show him that this level is too high for him and that he hasn’t proven himself yet,” Yamauchi said. "I respect what he has done, but he’s still an average fighter.
"The only way he can win a fight is on the ground,” Yamauchi continued. "He has no knockout power, doesn’t move well on the feet. He has good pressure on the ground, but if he wants to test himself on the ground with me, he picked the wrong guy to do it. I’m a jiu-jitsu black belt, a Brazilian competitor who has won many titles in grappling, and I’m used to this."
Yamauchi says he “hates decisions” and wants to force Piccolotti to tap at Bellator 183. He also believes a win could be enough for him to earn a shot at the belt, especially since Piccolotti was matched up against future champion Brent Primus earlier this year.
"Whoever won that fight would likely fight for the belt (against Michael Chandler), so I think we’re close to the title,” Yamauchi said. "It’s not up to me, it’s up to Bellator. One good performance, a dominant performance — who knows, maybe we earn a title shot?"