Charles Johnson won the Legacy Fighting Alliance interim flyweight title with a split decision against Yuma Horiuchi at LFA 110 in Oklahoma. The Tiger Muay Thai trained fighter beat his Japanese opponent by the narrowest of margins.
With this win, the American is hoping to forge a path to the UFC having improved his record to 9-2. He was a Tiger Muay Thai tryout winner in 2019 and came into this fight on the back of a second-round submission win against Karlee Pangilinan at LFA 100.
Horiuchi, meanwhile, won five fights out of six fights competing in Deep in his homeland before moving to the United States in search of bigger opportunities. The 23-year-old can count himself a touch unfortunate to lose via split decision for the third time in his last four fights.
The Team Oyama man elected to engage in an intriguing striking battle that took place exclusively on the feet for all five rounds. Horiuchi had a clear strategy from the outset and began attacking Johnson’s calves with a deluge of low kicks.
The Japanese fighter let his hands fly with a one-two and finished with another calf kick, continuing to plant strikes on the inside of the rear leg and the outside of the lead leg. Johnson used the naked jab and the teep to find his range, with his coaches yelling at him to unleash heavy shots down the centre.
Horiuchi threw body kicks while his opponent persevered with push kicks and buckled the Japanese fighter with a right hook. The teep continued to be an important weapon for both fighters in the second round.
Having teased countless low kicks, Horiuchi landed a cross and fired off a right head kick. The Tokyo-born fighter then began to find success with shots to the body before scoring with another right kick to the head.
Johnson replied with two stout punches down the pipe and a big leg kick. Having nicked Johnson on the groin with a teep already, Horiuchi was then deducted a point for catching him again.
Horiuchi continued to do work with the body shots in the third, while Johnson responded with lead leg kicks and right hooks. Horiuchi appeared to be leading the dance and chose his shots well, unleashing a classic, one-two-three combination.
Both fighters landed plenty of a volume. A right cross and pivot from Johnson connected and Horiuchi countered with a right cross. The American ended the round strongly, switching stances at will and connecting with left straight, a left uppercut and a right cross.
Horiuchi went hunting for the body in the fourth round and landed slick combinations, attacking Johnson against the cage. Johnson appeared to be taking the round off and looked content to keep a high guard and absorb the combinations.
As Johnson landed with a body shot of his own, Horiuchi’s extended fingers from his lead arm caught his opponent in the eye and a timeout was called.
When they resumed, Horiuchi caught Johnson with an overhand right which appeared to wake him up. He landed a big jab. Horiuchi ripped a nice shot to the body. Then came three left hooks from Johnson as blood began to trickle from Horiuchi’s nose.
The final round was all action from both men as Horiuchi uncorked another right hook to the body. Johnson landed with a stiff jab and a powerful left that rattled Horiuchi and his right eye began to close.
A left cross from Johnson was met by a right hand to the body from Horiuchi. Another left hook from Johnson and still Horiuchi moved forwards in zombie-like fashion.
At the behest of his coaches, Johnson planted a left hand down the middle and was flowing with ease, finding joy as he switched stances and tagged Horiuchi from both sides.
It was an admirable showing from both fighters but the deducted point could have proved crucial with the scorecards reading 49-45 and 48-46 and 45-49 in Johnson’s favour. Horiuchi slips to 8-4 while the American improves to 9-2.