Yushin Okami: Can He Work His Way Back to a Title Shot?
Yushin Okami is almost certainly not going to find himself in a title bout in the UFC ever again. I am not going to sugarcoat that answer. The only possible way Okami ends up in another title fight would be a combination of injuries, losses by other contenders and if he puts together a bunch of wins, almost immediately.
Otherwise, Okami will remain where he has been for almost his entire UFC career—a stepping stone used specifically to determine if a young fighter can overcome grappling.
This is not to criticize Yushin Okami by any means. Okami is a strong fighter who is one of the pound-for-pound most powerful wrestlers in MMA, and he has had a very long, very strong UFC career.
That said, at no point has he ever been on top of Dana White's list of people he wants to have as a champion. Worse yet, at no point has he been a fighter anyone has been especially excited to see fight.
A large part of this is, simply, the disdain many fans have for “grappling specialists” who they claim fight safely, in an effort to edge-out opponents with judges. While this is completely off-base (after all, how many complain that knockout artists are scaredy cats because they will not wrestle?) it has nonetheless proven to be a large enough group that they can influence matchmaking.
Will Okami ever get a title shot in the UFC again?
Jon Fitch felt that sting when he won five fights in a row and was on many pound-for-pound top-ten lists, but was essentially never in the title picture from 2009-2011. Georges St-Pierre and Jake Shields have also been criticized for this.
Being a grappling specialist is going to put any given fighter at a disadvantage out-of-hand, but the factors working against Okami do not end there.
The UFC's middleweight division is absolutely stacked right now. It is far, far more stacked than it was just a year ago when Okami fought for the belt, given the addition of Hector Lombard, the rises of Tim Boetsch and Chris Weidman, and the return of Alan Belcher
On top of that, the UFC's middleweight field is actually getting bigger. There is much talk about Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida dropping down, and either of them would be very close to getting a title shot if they do drop (though Machida has always been vocal about not fighting Anderson Silva).
It keeps getting worse, as one must also consider Strikeforce. The UFC's sister promotion is only secure through 2012. After that, it is entirely possible that their middleweight division's top fighters could be brought into the UFC. That would then add Ronaldo Souza, Roger Gracie, Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold onto the pile.
Okami would probably have to win five or six fights in a row, and have a boatload of strategically-placed losses amongst other contenders, in order to climb to the top of that pile. Even then, there is no guarantee he would fight for the belt.
Again, Yushin Okami is a very good fighter. Unfortunately, he is a very good fighter that is well outside the title picture in a stacked division who, over the years, has been forced to fight on preliminary cards because fans are so thoroughly disinterested in him.
So ultimately, no. Yushin Okami will never see a shot at the title again.
At UFC 150, Okami will be facing Buddy Roberts. With that in mind, it is very difficult to imagine him stepping into the cage against Anderson Silva again.
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