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Rivalries: Rani Yahya


Experience shapes characters and yields a body of work worthy of veneration. However, in the competitive and brutal sphere of combat sports, that can be the paramount discriminator that separates an experienced veteran from hungry contenders. Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight mainstay Rani Yahya’s career has personified this notion as a seasoned warrior who has fought some of the best athletes the sport has had to offer across three weight classes.

A former Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Fighting World Championships gold medalist, Yahya’s MMA record stands tall with 28 career victories—a staggering 21 of them having been secured through submissions. In his next assignment, the Brazilian will take on Victor Henry at UFC on ESPN 55 this Saturday in Las Vegas. With another submission win, he will surpass Urijah Faber for most such victories in the 135-pound weight class. For that, he figures to be keen on mobilizing past know-how of expertise accumulated against stiff UFC competition for over a decade.

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Ahead of Yahya’s looming battle with Henry at the UFC Apex, a look at some of the rivalries that have forge him into a formidable competitor:

Yoshiro Maeda


Having compiled a solid 12-4 run to that point in his professional journey, Yahya took on Japanese MMA legend Yoshiro Maeda in a catchweight clash at WEC 36 in 2002. From the opening bell, Yahya proved to be the aggressor, taking the fight to Maeda and threatening him with grappling advances. During one of the takedown attempts, Maeda managed to lock a jumping guillotine and squeezed hard. It looked like he had Yahya in a world of trouble, but the Brazlian stayed composed. He managed to break free from the attempt, and when they got back on their feet, Yahya returned the favor with a guillotine choke attempt of his own. With the perfect application of the technique, he managed to secure the submission win at precisely the 3:30 mark of the very first round.

Johnny Bedford


At UFC Fight Night 39, Yahya and Bedford barely spent 39 seconds with each other before their fight witnessed an anticlimactic ending. The match was declared a no contest after an accidental clash of heads. Bedford was visibly frustrated since he thought he had secured the finish. Yahya later narrated the episode, claiming he understood his plight and that “Brutal” apologized to him in the locker room. Five months later, the stage was set for the rematch, and Yahya’s strengthened resolve to draw a definitive ending to the rivalry was apparent. The Brazilian secured a second-round submission victory via kimura and went on to pick up three more victories in succession.

Matthew Lopez


Lopez was an undefeated prospect with an 8-0 record on his ledger before he took on Yahya at UFC Fight Night 91. The bout proved to be a battleground of wild flurries in the opening stanza. Lopez held his ground in grappling advances and showed necessary reluctance in engaging in scrambles. As he grew confident in the exchanges, Lopez threatened with an armbar and deep inverted triangle attempt. However, in the third round, he gave away top position to Yahya and paid the price immediately. Yahya locked up an arm-triangle choke and squeezed out the submission finish at the 4:19 mark of the third round.
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