Rani Yahya has become a quiet but steady force in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, all while competing in two weight classes.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will try to bounce back from a decision defeat to Joe Soto when he meets Enrique Briones in a preliminary bantamweight battle at UFC Fight Night 114 this Saturday at Mexico City Arena in Mexico City. The loss to Soto on March 11 snapped a four-fight winning streak for Yahya, who nevertheless owns an 8-3 record in the UFC. Victories over former Sengoku champions Masenori Kanehara and Mizuto Hirota and onetime World Extreme Cagefighting titleholders Mike Thomas Brown and Eddie Wineland highlight his resume. Yahya has not suffered back-to-back defeats in more than seven years.
As he approaches his three-round clash with Briones, here are five things you might not know about the Constrictor Team standout:
1. He is an accomplished grappler with the hardware and results to prove it.
A three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, Yaha won silver at the 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships -- he lost to Leo Vieira in the final -- and then struck gold at the event two years later. He has delivered 17 of his 23 career mixed martial arts victories by submission: three by arm-triangle choke, three by north-south choke, two by rear-naked choke, two by guillotine choke and one each by kimura, brabo choke, Ezekiel choke, triangle choke, keylock, armbar and Peruvian necktie. Yahya was a three-time “Submission of the Night” award winner in the WEC, where he cashed in on wins over Wineland, John Hosman and Yoshiro Maeda. All three-tapped to first-round chokes.
2. He has the skills necessary to drag a fight to the ground.
Yahya by FightMetric count has executed 18 takedowns while competing in the UFC’s wrestling-rich 135-pound weight class. That number ranks fifth on the promotion’s all-time list for bantamweights, trailing only Urijah Faber (26), Dominick Cruz (23), T.J. Dillashaw (21) and Erik Perez (19).
3. Now 32, he has a wealth of experience upon which to draw.
Fighting professionally for nearly 15 years, Yahya made his debut at a Kallifas Vale Tudo event in his native Brazil on Sept. 14, 2002. He submitted Junior Peba with an arm-triangle choke just 90 seconds into the first round, the quick victory coming two days after Yahya celebrated his 18th birthday.
4. Consistency has been a hallmark.
Yahya has posted at least one win in 13 of the last 15 years. He did not fight in 2003 and lost his only bout in 2010, dropping a unanimous decision to Takeya Mizugaki at WEC 48.
5. While his conditioning has often come into question, durability has proven to be a strength.
Six of Yahya’s nine professional defeats have come by decision. The only three men who have finished him are Gesias Cavalcante, Norifumi Yamamoto and Joseph Benavidez. They have 64 wins between them.