Understandably, the narrative entering the Bellator 284 main event between Goiti Yamauchi and Neiman Gracie revolved around the anticipation of a high-level battle on the ground. As is so often the case in mixed martial arts, the narrative was blown up once the opening bell rang as Yamauchi's strikes dominated the fight before he scored a second-round knockout inside the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Yamauchi, who holds the record for most submission victories in Bellator history, drew first blood on Friday night, stunning Gracie with a left hand and following up with a flurry that put Gracie on his back. Gracie was able to create space and get back to his feet quickly. While Gracie largely worked behind a jab, his strikes seemed to lack the same pop Yamauchi was able to generate.
Ground action was teased throughout the second round, with Gracie spending time on his back while firing kicks upward at Yamuchi's legs and chin. Yamauchi refused Gracie's multiple invitations to enter his guard, content to throw his own kicks at his downed opponent's legs.
Back on the feet, Gracie began to speed up his striking, rapidly firing jabs at Yamauchi. Rather than raise his defensive guard, Yamauchi dropped his hands and dipped his forehead into the incoming shots. The move was all a set-up from Yamauchi as he stepped back and delivered a perfectly-timed uppercut to send Gracie crashing to the canvas for the stoppage at the 3:58 mark of the second round.
After the fight, Yamauchi credited Gennadiy Golovkin as the inspiration for his showy finish.
"In competition, I used to be a very defensive fighter. This time I was 'Triple G'-style," Yamauchi said. "Big drama show. That's what I do in my sparring sessions. I like it."
Yamauchi is now 14-4 in the Bellator cage, with 12 of those victories coming by stoppage. With three consecutive stoppage victories and a 6-1 record over his seven previous fights (the lone blemish a split decision loss to Dan Moret) Yamauchi looks to be a real threat to the top of the 170-pound division just two fights into his welterweight campaign.