One of the most accomplished and well-established jiu-jitsu practitioners in MMA, Rani Yahya will look to re-enter the bantamweight rankings when he takes on Russell Doane at UFC Orlando.
After winning four straight, Yahya found himself ranked in the UFC’s top 15 bantamweights. In his next contest, he lost a close and gruelling fight to Joe Soto which saw him fall out of the top 15 and he’s been in pursuit to the top ever since.
He rebounded with a first round submission win over Henry Briones in Mexico City and now he draws Hawaii’s Doane. Yahya feels he is better than him everywhere and is comfortable wherever the fight goes.
“I think he has nothing special,” Yahya said. “He has some knockout power and throws his punches really hard. He has good timing in his takedowns but I fought against very good knockout artists and I was able to avoid their game very well. They weren’t able to hit me once.”
And the 2nd degree jiu-jitsu black belt sees a gaping hole in Doane’s ground game where he will look to take advantage.
“On the ground, he has nothing special,” Yahya said. “He doesn’t do much on his back and that’s one of the reasons why he’s got some losses by rear naked choke. I think it’s a very good match-up for me.”
Following his loss to Joe Soto just under a year ago, Yahya decided to make the move to the prestigious American Top Team. A talent stacked gym, Yahya has been putting some work in with the likes of Kyoji Horiguchi and Renan Barao.
“I decided to train there a year ago,” Yahya said. “I visited there before and I really liked it. Last year after my fight in Fortaleza, I decided to go train there and I liked the coaches. I decided I was going to represent their team. Dan Lambert is my manager now so everything is going to be good for me.”
Many Brazilians such as Renan Barao, Junior dos Santos and Antonio Carlos Jr. have made the same move over to Florida like Yahya, which has made adjusting a lot easier for him.
“The fact there are a lot of Brazilians makes me feel like I’m at home,” Yahya said. “It’s very helpful.”
With 18 of his 24 wins coming by the way of submission, Yahya has displayed a wide array of finishing techniques throughout his career. He believes jiu-jitsu is the key to becoming a world champion.
“Jiu-jitsu is basically the beginning of an MMA fight,” Yahya explained. “Everyone has to know jiu-jitsu. All the champions have very good jiu-jitsu.”
And his move to American Top Team is indicative of his intent to not only stay true to his jiu-jitsu roots but to re-visit his striking background, a weapon he believes not many people give him credit for. Yahya is also a black belt in Muay-Thai.
“I can also strike, I have an excellent striking coach,” Yahya said. “Many people don’t know but I’ve been training in Muay-Thai and boxing for a long time so I can surprise people.”
“I keep my roots and this is one of things I’m working really hard on at American Top Team. It’s no surprise that I want to take the fight to the ground. They’ve been working with me on ways how to do that.”
A win over Doane would be Yahya’s 6th win in his last 7 fights, a position that only the top ranked bantamweights find themselves in. He will look to make a statement in Orlando and throw his hat into the mix.
“There are so many ways to win. I can win by submission or by knockout. I can also take him down and ground and pound him and if he takes me down, that’ll be very good because I can submit him from my back too.”
Yahya will take on Russell Doane, February 24th live on UFC Fight Pass.