In a fast-paced sport like mixed martial arts, it's easy to forget a fighter if he's inactive for any length of time, regardless of the reason. Yushin Okami happens to be one of those fighters, and I'm not quite sure exactly why that is.
Okami hasn't fought inside the Octagon since December 2008, when he won a unanimous decision over Dean Lister at UFC 92. The victory was the seventh in eight fights for Okami since joining the UFC in 2006. His lone loss came to Rich Franklin at UFC 72 in June 2007.
Okami was set to fight Dan Miller at UFC 98, but he was forced to pull out of that fight due to a torn ligament in his knee. Okami is expected to be ready to fight and return to the UFC sometime after September.
This injury is coming off of another injury that cost him a title shot in the first place. A broken hand kept Okami out of UFC 90 against Silva. Patrick Cote filled in for Okami, and everyone remembers what an embarrassment to the sport that turned out to be.
It has been announced that the winner of the fight between Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt at UFC 102 in August will be next in line for a title shot with Anderson Silva.
Despite Okami's injury, it doesn't seem right that the winner of Maia and Marquardt get the next title shot. Marquardt already lost to Silva in July 2007, and he didn't even make it out of the first round.
Maia is undefeated as a professional, but he doesn't have nearly the resume of Okami or even Marquardt. However, Maia could cause match-up problems for Silva. Maia has great jiu-jitsu as evidence by having won Submission of the Night in four of his six UFC fights.
Okami holds the biggest trump card over any of the current fighters on the UFC roster: a victory over Anderson Silva. In all fairness, the win was via disqualification due to an illegal kick, but a win is a win no matter how it happened.
Okami is a strong all-around fighter that could give Silva quite a match. He never rushes into anything too dangerous. As a result, most of his fights in the UFC have gone to the judges' scorecards.
Okami can end the fights if given the right situation. He possesses strong punches and kicks, as well as strong ground and pound. He would need to be careful of Silva's jiu-jitsu, but his gameplan would likely to be stand and trade punches with Silva.
Injuries are an unfortunate aspect of every sport. They have hit Yushin Okami especially hard and kept him away from a title shot for far too long.
Hopefully, Okami can return to the Octagon and remind everybody how great of a fighter he is and maybe even pull off a giant upset of the great Anderson Silva.