Okami had previously outmuscled and outgrappled Belcher back in 2006, but both men seemed to be moving in opposite directions heading into this fight, particularly with Belcher taking the initiative and looking to move into title contender status.
Despite Belcher's significant improvements, the outcome of this rematch was eerily similar to their initial battle back at UFC 62. Here's why:
Early on, Belcher tried to get his striking going, but he threw a few too many kicks and gave Okami openings to press him into the fence and work for takedowns. While Okami couldn't do much with the position, Belcher was unable to get anything going off his back.
After getting back to his feet, Belcher again was put on the ground, although again, Okami did not do much in terms of ground and pound or advancement of position.
Belcher again was dumped on the ground in the second round, although this time around, he was aided by a pair of stand-ups from the referee. He would connect with a heavy right hand after getting back to his feet, but failed to follow up and Okami was able to again secure a takedown and gain the upper hand on the ground.
"The Talent" needed to go for broke in the final round, knowing he was down two rounds already and he got off to a good start with a heavy right hand again, but he just couldn't force the issue. After brilliantly reversing an Okami takedown attempt to land in mount, he was unable to capitalize on the advantageous position and was once more dumped on his back until the fight concluded.
The judges had an easy job in this bout, awarding Okami a unanimous decision when it was all said and done.
For Alan Belcher, he made some surprising mistakes considering his experience. He constantly allowed Okami to back him near the cage which made it very easy for "Thunder" to bullrush him and press him into the fence to work his clinch game and takedowns. Also, Belcher dropping for guillotines was a horrible idea considering the fact that Okami had never really been close to being submitted before. If he had been a bit more aggressive on the feet and followed up with big shots after rocking his Japanese foe, the outcome of this contest could have been different. Okami is not the type of fighter who gets nasty double legs so Belcher shouldn't have been so concerned about his forward pressure.
For Yushin Okami, he did everything right in the grappling department to get the job done. It wasn't very entertaining, but it was effective. One thing to look out for is he has to be a bit more careful while attempting his throws because he got reversed more than once in this fight, but his offensive grappling made up for it. He also didn't do much on the feet other than get rocked a few times, but his footwork was solid as he was able to consistently position Belcher along the fence to work his clinch game. It would be nice to see him try to become more exciting once he's got his opponents on the ground, but that only affects the fans, not his outcomes.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Could Belcher have won had he followed up on the strikes he landed on the feet? Is Okami back after a rough two-fight stretch?