Originally planned for Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery” in St. Louis, the Yamamoto-Lopez match was pulled in order to clear Yamamoto’s participation at Dream 14 on May 29 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Dream will utilize its white cage for the event.
Sasahara cited Yamamoto’s inability to secure a visa and the fact that Strikeforce does not use his weight class as other reasons why the bout was rescheduled. Dream’s bantamweight division falls under a 139-pound limit.
Looking to rebound from a rocky and winless 2009, Yamamoto’s bout with Lopez will serve as his 2010 debut. He dropped a split decision to upstart Joe Warren in the second round of the 2009 Dream featherweight grand prix one year ago and followed it with an unexpected knockout loss to Korean Jae Hee Cheon in a K-1 Max fight in July. A unanimous decision defeat to Sengoku featherweight champion Masanori Kanehara capped his campaign at the annual K-1 “Dyanamite” event on New Year’s Eve.
“I lost consecutively last year, so I plan to continue fighting until I win,” Yamamoto said with a smile, noting that it will be his second fight in a cage since his no contest with Josh Thomson in December 2001. “I’ve been practicing for the cage here in my gym. My opponent is very much like me in stature and he likes to strike, so I expect him to come out and bang. It’ll be a fun fight.”
Yamamoto said he spent part of his five-month sabbatical in Okinawa, where he split time training groundwork on puzzle mats in an aging, “homemade gym” room he rented, as well as training his boxing with former WBA light welterweight champion Akinobu Hiranaka. Though he claims Hiranaka shared a great deal of pugilistic knowledge with him, Yamamoto would not specify what these revelations were, instead encouraging fans to wait and see.
No stranger to international competition, Lopez saw action in Japan at the K-1 World Max Finals in July, when he dropped a unanimous decision to young up-and-comer Hiroya Kawabe. He has lost consecutive fights in MMA, including a 12-second technical knockout defeat to Chucky Mady in Bahrain in December.
When asked about a potential future bout in the United States, Yamamoto would neither confirm nor deny the possibility. He claimed he would leave it to fate and take the opportunity if it arose again.
No other Dream 14 bouts were announced at the press conference. However, Sasahara confirmed that there would be at least one more fight revealed next week. Despite previous rumors pointing toward Tatsuya Kawajiri or Katsunori Kikuno fighting at Dream 14, Sasahara called participation by either fighter on the May 29 card doubtful.