Takanori Gomi returns after year layoff to fight Isaac Vallie-Flagg in April

Takanori Gomi, one of the most popular lightweights ever, returns after more than a year to face Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 172.

The Fireball Kid is back.

Takanori Gomi, one of the most popular Japanese fighters of all time, will make his UFC return after more than a year in a bout with Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 172 on April 26 in Baltimore, the UFC announced Tuesday. Vallie-Flagg was originally supposed to face Danny Castillo on the card. Castillo will get a new opponent.

Gomi (34-9, 1 NC) last fought March 3, 2013, a somewhat controversial loss to Diego Sanchez. Before that, the 35-year-old lightweight had won two in a row. He’ll be trying to get back to .500 in the UFC (3-4 currently) with a win over Vallie-Flagg.

Gomi was the first and only PRIDE lightweight champion and the PRIDE 2005 lightweight grand prix winner. He set a PRIDE record with 10 straight wins between 2004 and 2006. Known for his heavy hands and defensive wrestling, Gomi is one of the most accomplished 155-pounders in MMA history.

Vallie-Flagg (14-4-1), a Jackson’s MMA product, is coming off a loss to Elias Silverio at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 15 in Duluth, Ga. Before that, he was undefeated in 12 straight fights, including three wins in a row in the UFC and Strikeforce. Vallie-Flagg is also 35 years old, but far less experienced than Gomi.

UFC 172 at Baltimore Arena is headlined by a light heavyweight title fight between Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira. Phil Davis meets Anthony Johnson in the co-main event.