Former Pride Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder Takanori Gomi still houses some of the competitive fire that made him a global superstar.

Gomi (33-8, 2-3 UFC) rebounded from a harrowing first five minutes to stop Eiji Mitsuoka on second-round punches at UFC 144 “Edgar vs. Henderson” on Saturday at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The end came 2:21 into round two, as “The Fireball Kid” put the brakes on a two-fight losing streak.

The bout, though brief, was high on drama. Mitsuoka repeatedly tagged his countryman throughout the first round, tipping the spear of his attack with a right hook to the chin that staggered Gomi and sent him to a seated position. The 36-year-old Mitsuoka (18-8, 0-1 UFC) pounced, locked in a mounted triangle choke from the rear and nearly finished it there. Only the horn saved Gomi, who appeared out of sorts as he rose to return to his corner.

Round two resulted in a wild swing in momentum. Gomi started putting his haymakers on Mitsuoka’s head and battered his body with knees. Ultimately, he wheeled around behind the grounded Mitsuoka, unleashed a hellacious barrage of punches and broke his spirit, forcing the stoppage.

Lee Armbar Submits ‘Kid’

Englishman Vaughan Lee recorded the most significant win of his 19-fight career, as he submitted 2005 K-1 Hero’s lightweight grand prix winner Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto with a first-round armbar in an action-packed preliminary bout at 135 pounds. The tapout came 4:29 into round one.

“It’s another dream come true,” Lee said. “Being in the UFC is a dream come true. Fighting in Japan and fighting one of my favorite fighters of all-time, I’m the happiest person in the world right now.”

Yamamoto (18-6, 0-3 UFC), who has lost three in a row and five out of six fights, pounded the fist in disgust and disappointment after being submitted for the first time as a professional.

“All I can say is that I am disappointed at the moment,” he said. “I really, really wanted to win in Japan. I wanted to give all of [the Japanese fans] energy, but I understand that one little [mistake] can [make a fight] end this way. I learned that today.”

Lee (12-7, 1-1 UFC) weathered a serious flurry from the Japanese star, as he covered up in the face of winging right and left hands and knees from the clinch. Later, a flying knee from the underdog sent Yamamoto into retreat mode and afforded Lee the opening through which he authored his upset. The 29-year-old wobbled Yamamoto with a punch, pressed the fight to the ground and went to work on a triangle choke before transitioning to the armbar.

“I felt him posturing up, and he had a real strong base,” Lee said, “so I had to switch it to the armbar real quick.”

Fukuda Hands Cantwell Fifth Straight Loss

Riki Fukuda File Photo

Fukuda outworked Cantwell.

Former Deep middleweight champion Riki Fukuda utilized a superior gas tank and a multi-pronged striking attack, as he dispatched the reeling Steve Cantwell by unanimous decision in a 185-pound showdown. All three cageside judges scored it for Fukuda (18-5, 1-1 UFC): 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27.

Cantwell (7-6, 1-5 UFC), who once held the WEC light heavyweight crown, has lost five consecutive bouts. The 25-year-old One Kick’s Gym representative was effective through the first five minutes, but, as has been the case of late, he faded down the stretch. Fukuda poured on the punishment in the second and third rounds, assaulting Cantwell with the occasional takedown, accurate close-quarters punches and kicks to the legs and body.

By the end of the 15-minute encounter, the exhausted Cantwell could barely stand. Fukuda, 31, has posted eight wins in his last nine appearances.

Cariaso Springs Upset, Topples Mizugaki

Effective counter punching and an active guard carried Strikeforce veteran Chris Cariaso to a surprising unanimous decision over former WEC bantamweight title contender Takeya Mizugaki at 135 pounds. Cariaso (13-3, 3-1 UFC) has won seven of his last nine bouts.

The two bantamweights stalemated through the first two rounds. In the third, Cariaso scored with a slapping head kick and, despite a noticeable size discrepancy between them, largely outmaneuvered the 2008 Cage Force grand prix winner in the clinch, as he turned him into the cage and peppered his midsection with knees.

Mizugaki (15-7, 2-2 UFC) moved into top position on the ground late in the period, when the Californian slipped on a head kick. However, the Japanese standout found himself in more of a defensive mode, fending off elbows and attempted sweeps from a man who remained active from his back.

Tamura KOs Zhang on Short Notice

Issei Tamura flattened China Top Team representative Tiequan Zhang with a crushing right hand in their preliminary featherweight duel, as he scored a spectacular second-round knockout. Tamura (7-2, 1-0 UFC) left nothing to the imagination, finishing it 32 seconds into round two.

A late replacement for the injured Leonard Garcia, the 27-year-old Tamura established himself as the superior fighter in the first round, as he dropped Zhang (15-3, 1-2 UFC) with a right hand, attacked him with ground-and-pound and later secured a double-leg takedown. The Chinese import’s situation only grew more dire in the second, where Tamura knocked him cold with a right hand and sent him to his third defeat in his last four outings.

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