The influx of international talent into the Ultimate Fighting Championship continues to grow with almost every event. One of the most recent additions to the ever-growing welterweight division is Japanese standout Yoshiyuki Yoshida, who made his debut at UFC 84 picking up a quick submission win over Jon Koppenhaver.
Now the Judoka returns against one of the toughest tests in his career as he faces Karo Parisyan at UFC 88 in Atlanta, but it won't be the first time he steps in as the underdog not expected to win.
Making his way through Japanese promotions such as Shooto, Yoshida worked his way into the GCM: Cage Force welterweight tournament as one of eight fighters vying for the championship title.
The favorite going in was former Shooto champion Akira Kikuchi, who holds wins over many top fighters including being the last person to defeat current EliteXC champion Jake Shields, in 2004.
When the Cage Force semifinals were set, Yoshida found himself standing across the cage from Kikuchi in a highly anticipated showdown between the veteran champion and the new contender. He approached the fight with Kikuchi with the same aggression and style he did in every previous bout during the tournament.
Kikuchi was able to take advantage of Yoshida early on, going as far as mounting the Judo practitioner, but it was short lived as the position was soon reversed as well as the ultimate fortune for his opponent. Yoshida worked hard and scrambled to top position where he unloaded a devastating barrage of elbows that knocked Kikuchi senseless, causing a stop to the fight and instantly putting Yoshiyuki Yoshida's name on the map.
The final of the tournament ended in some level of disappointment as the fourth-degree Jude black belt faced a young Brit and now fellow UFC fighter, Dan Hardy, for the title. After dominating the first round, Yoshida came across the cage ready to once again bring the fight to Hardy, but he was struck with an accidental kick landing squarely in the groin and unfortunately the fight was stopped when Yoshida couldn't continue.
Of course fans of that fight will hopefully see a definitive ending to that match as both fighters are under contract to the UFC, but for now Yoshida is looking to make his mark once again, facing another established star in Parisyan.
Parisyan has stated in interviews that Yoshida will be the most accomplished Judo fighter he's ever faced in MMA and their styles could easily be described as similar and equally devastating when fought effectively.
While he's still the new kid on the block in the UFC, Yoshida brings with him the experience of fighting in a cage and the practice of using elbows in competition, something many international fighters had to learn once they made their move to the promotional juggernaught.
Yoshida has already earned his place as one of the top prospects in MMA, but if he is able to defeat Parisyan, he may just solidify his spot as one of the best welterweights in the world.
Walking into the arena on Saturday night, Yoshida may be the underdog, he may be underestimated, but he may just overwhelm his opponent as he works his way towards proving he is the best fighter at 170 pounds.