For a long time, the MMA world has talked about many great fighters ranging from Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock to Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture. The era of the latter two saw the light heavyweight division gain prominence while the lightweights, despite putting on some noteworthy contests, fought more for real estate in the sport than for titles.

Fast forward a few years to the days of Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, and Georges St-Pierre, and we can recall the rise of the featherweights and bantamweights. One in particular went by the name of Norifumi Yamamoto, and for quite some time, he earned a reputation as one of the best fighters in the world.

Of course, Yamamoto would suffer defeats and injuries, but he still made it to the UFC in 2011. As we bring everything to the present, we must point out that Yamamoto has suffered injuries that have kept him out of action since last year, and won’t return until he sees Roman Salazar at UFC 184 next February. Time off works differently for every fighter — some return refreshed while others show some clear ring rust. How will his time away from the cage work for Yamamoto?

Salazar would certainly be the favorite to win, if he were up against any other bantamweight not named Urijah Faber, Mitch Gagnon or Anthony Birchak, but Yamamoto’s back is up against a wall here. Even a legend of the sport can’t go 0-4 in a UFC run and expect to stay under contract, and so Yamamoto will have prove to the world that he never really left. Sure, beating Salazar doesn’t hold the same weight as a win over Takeya Mizugaki or Raphael Assuncao, but at this point, Yamamoto does not need to talk title shots or top contenders. If he prevails against Salazar in February, he will have taken his first step towards a monumental career resurgence, and it will feel ten times better than losing four straight and likely having no other options except to call it a career.