Johnson (9-2) slightly outworked and outpaced Yamauchi (8-4) over the course of five rounds in the LFA 110 main event at Grand Casino Hotel & Resort in Shawnee, Okla., winning a split decision by scores of 49-45, 46-48, 48-46 to pick up the gold. The fight streamed on UFC Fight Pass.
Whether Johnson remains the interim champion or is promoted to undisputed titleholder, remains to be seen. Reigning champ Victor Altamirano is booked to compete on Dana White’s Contender series this fall, and if he wins a UFC contract, he will vacate. If not, he will return to LFA for a unification clash with Johnson.
The first round was largely a feeling out process, with Johnson and Horiuchi both throwing a ton of kicks on each other. Leg kicks and body blows were the method of choice, and although Horiuchi was the more effective kicker, it was a right hand from Johnson that staggered his opponent and created the biggest moment of the opening five minutes.
Horiuchi was fully recovered going into the second round, and he kept on kicking. After throwing too many leg kicks to count, he went high on two occasions and tagged Johnson, who brushed them off and claimed he wasn’t hurt. Johnson was vocal in the cage, too, talking trash to Horiuchi in his native Japanese as he tried to work his attacks. Horiuchi landed an accidental low blow that caused him to be immediately deducted a point.
With the urgency of the point deduction looming, Horiuchi picked up to the pace going into the third round. He pressured Johnson to the back foot and continued to work him with kicks and counter punches, minimizing the offensive effectiveness. Horiuchi started to show some damage around his left eye from earlier strikes, but it didn’t deter him from continuing to attack for the remainder of the round.
The fight hit the championship rounds, and Horiuchi was fully in his flow. He backed Johnson up into the cage and threw punching combinations to the body and head, and didn’t have to worry much about what was coming back his way. Horiuchi largely controlled the pace, but a fatigued Johnson did his best to keep it competitive.
Johnson’s corner gave him a motivational speech going into the final frame, and it worked. He came out trying to get in Horiuchi’s face with pressure. Horiuchi didn’t back up, though, and ripped some punches to the body. Johnson found success with some good jabs and straight punches, and had some of his best moments down the stretch of the fight as the damage added up on Horiuchi’s face.
Both men and their team’s felt they had a case for the victory when the decision was read, but only one could emerge the winner, and two of three judges saw it for Johnson.
“I’m disappointed with myself,” Johnson said in his post-fight interview with Alan Jouban. “I feel like I didn’t fight to my ability, but at the same time, I got away with the win her today. I feel like I won the fight, I just didn’t fight to the best of my ability.”
Complete LFA 110 results included:
Charles Johnson def. Yuma Horiuchi via split decision (49-45, 46-48, 48-46) – to win interim
Renato Valente def. Chibwikem Onyenegecha via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-26)
Christian Natividad def. Luis Aguirre via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-26)
Oscar Herrera def. Arpan Gurung via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 3:17