With UFC returning to Brazil for the first time since 1998, there could only be one man to headline the show. Easily one of the two best fighters in the sport today, arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, and the only man with his own Burger King commercial. Now he tries to avenge the last official loss on his record and continue to solidify a legacy that is untouched at 185. Now while his opponent might not be a flashy name with a flashy style, he’s exactly the type of fighter who could threaten the champion and leave South America as the most hated man in the country.
Middleweight Title Fight: Yushin Okami vs. Anderson Silva ©
The First Fight: As we’ve heard many times since this fight was announced, Yushin Okami was the last man to defeat Anderson Silva. Of course the only people who are saying it like it holds any significance is the UFC because they’re trying to promote this fight. Saying Okami beat Silva is like saying Matt Hamill beat Jon Jones, factually they’re both correct, but people are lying to themselves if they think it means anything. Luckily, Silva knows it means nothing, most fans know it means nothing, and most importantly, Okami knows it means nothing. Okami doesn’t have some self-inflated confidence because there’s a “W” on his record next to Silva’s name. That alone should give Okami fans more confidence in their fighter.
Square Dance: If I could assign a movie title to the game plan of both fighters, Silva would be “Footloose” and Okami would be “Dirty Dancing.” When Silva starts to get that “Silva Bounce” going, that’s when he’s found his rhythm and he feels comfortable. He’s loose on his feet, he’s loose with his hands, and he’s loose with his movements. Okami has to prevent that. He has to make this a dirty fight. He can’t let Silva find that rhythm, and to do that, he has to attack first and keeping attacking. Not recklessly mind you, but enough to make Silva feel a bit uncomfortable in the cage.
Training With Sonnen: Okami has been working hard with Chael Sonnen every since he lost to the former middleweight title challenger, and while Sonnen can give him certain tips and tricks, Okami isn’t Sonnen. Even though he is strong at 185 and he’s a good wrestler by Japan standards, he’s not on the level of Sonnen. He’s also not as active on top as Sonnen, although I do think that he hits harder. Also, he is a better grappler than Sonnen. He’s more likely to finish with a submission and he’s less likely to get caught in one.
When Will Silva Slow? From now until the time he loses, we’re always going to wonder when Silva will finally slow down. We thought it was against Sonnen, when he was hurt on the feet and dominated for over 23 minutes. Then he kicked Vitor Belfort in the face and all doubts went away. Silva is 36 though and he relies a lot on his speed and reflexes. Sooner or later, those reflexes are going to fade and he won’t be able to get away with moving his head when his hands down like he does now. Every human gets old and I’m 98% sure that Silva is human. Maybe that 2% of doubt is correct though and Silva isn’t human, he’s some sort of supernatural.
Silva’s Takedown Defense & Guard: It’s no secret that Silva’s takedown defense is highly suspect. He’s help by the fact that he’s a very lengthy fighter and he knows how to use that length to keep opponents at a distance, but once an opponent has a hold of one of Silva’s legs, chances are he’s going to the ground. While Silva does have a good guard, it’s probably not as good as some people think. He does a nice job locking opponents down, but he can only lock opponents down when they really let him. If the opponent wants to create space and posture up, chance are they’ll be able to and they’ll be able to do damage as well. He’s active off his back with strikes and submission attempts, but that also gets him in trouble
Okami’s Striking: We all know that Silva’s striking is the best in MMA. But Okami can hold his own on the feet. He’s obviously not on the level of Silva, but he’s a solid striker and his striking will be helped by the fact that Silva will be worried about his takedowns. Okami, like Silva, stands southpaw, and has a sneaky good jab and puts a really strong straight left behind it. Sonnen, also a southpaw, caught Silva with the one-two on occasions, not because he’s a great striker either, but because Silva was worried about Sonnen’s takedowns. If Okami can keep Silva off balance, it’s possible that he won’t look completely foolish on the feet.
Test Of Strength: Okami has always been considered one of the strongest fighters at 185 and Silva can hold his own in the strength department. Okami is a strength based fighter. His game is to put opponents in the cage, get them on the ground, and grind them out. Will he be able to do that to Silva though, who is just as strong and as dangerous in the clinch as he is from the outside? Okami can’t be afraid to eat some punches in order to get into and push Silva against the cage. He has a good chin and he needs to trust it if he’s going to be successful.
Silva’s Mystique: To further on my point about Okami needing to trust his chin, he needs to trust himself. When you fight Silva, you’re not just fighting one of the most skilled fighters on the planet, you’re fighting his mystique. You can be mentally crushed by him before he ever lays leather on you if you allow it. Okami has never struck me as a mentally weak guy, but guys change when they fight Silva. He just has a way of drawing them into his fight and nobody beats Silva at his fight. We’ll know within the first round whether or not Okami has already been mentally defeated just by the way he reacts to Silva and how he starts the fight.
Fight Prediction: If I were a betting man, I’d bet on Okami because he’s a 5:1 to underdog and that’s good money if he wins. But in a straight pick em, I just can’t go against Silva. Okami has a better shot than most will have you believe, but at the end of the say, Silva should be too quick and too skilled for Okami. I think Okami gets too close for comfort, eats some knees, and is finished in the clinch with knees and elbows.
Official Prediction: Anderson Silva to defeat Yushin Okami by TKO in Round Two
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC