UFC 144 fight card: Yushin Okami vs Tim Boetsch prediction, preview and breakdown

Yushin Okami (L) and Tim Boetsch (R) face off shortly after hitting their middleweight marks at the UFC 144 weigh-in on Sat., Feb. 25, 2012, at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Photo by Esther Lin via Sbnation.com.

Two tough 185-pound fighters with similar styles, Yushin Okami, will tonight (Feb. 25, 2012) collide on the UFC 144 pay-per-view (PPV) main card, which is set to take place from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

Don’t expect a standing match here because both are takedown and ground-and-pound specialists.

Boetsch’s two wins since dropping to Middleweight have demonstrated that he is increasingly comfortable at the weight, and this is a step into the division’s elite class. Meanwhile, coming off a one-sided thrashing at the hands of division champion Anderson Silva, Okami will look to win the wrestling battle early and wear out "The Barbarian."

Boetsch has bigger power and more variety in his strikes, but tends to be somewhat wild in his deliverly, almost as though he were a bar brawler. Okami depends on a very simple diet of one-two combinations – with mostly jabs as spacefinders and a low-risk counter – prior to forcing a clinch and takedown attempts.

Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 144 fight between Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch:

The Breakdown

Okami’s mental state after the Silva loss might be a consideration. Will he be gun-shy if nailed again? Will Boetsch, -- with a penchant for big bombs in crazy exchanges -- be able to capitalize on Okami’s limited stand up? Okami probably has a slight edge in mixed martial arts (MMA) grappling, and upper-body strength, but Boetsch has career upside in his favor.

A fighter's third fight after dropping a weight class usually is when he really starts to put it together, and Boetsch has shown the kind of endurance and persistence to wear down foes in the third round in the two decisions he’s won at middle. That’s a compelling subplot, because grinding down opponents is precisely what Okami depends on to win fights.

Fighting in front of his Japanese fans, will Okami feel pressured to be more exciting than normal, which can often backfire?

The Pick

Okami’s the Jon Fitch of the middleweight division -- a guy with a highly consistent style, not overly exciting, but exceptionally consistent (Johny Hendricks aside). He stuck around 185 and simply kept winning, for the most part, until getting his rematch with Silva, where he was dominated.

However, he’s very composed and doesn’t make too many mistakes, and in a dogfight-style grappling match, unless you’re Chael Sonnen, you’re not going to outwrestle the guy. He’ll survive a few early wild exchanges with Boetsch, and get an early takedown to swing the momentum his way.

Boetsch is tough and will survive, as Okami doesn’t do too much ground and pound, preferring to keep position and the top spot, but it will be enough to wear down Boetsch over the distance and take a comfortable if somewhat underwhelming decision.

Okami via decision

Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 144 results of all the "Edgar vs. Henderson" pay-per-view (PPV) action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, FX "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7:30 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Sunday morning.

See you later!

Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst and at jason@jasonprobst.com.

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