Two of the top middleweights on the planet waged war last night (March 2, 2013) as former title challenger Yushin Okami battled former Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard on the UFC on Fuel TV 8 main card in Saitama, Japan.
Both men were coming off significant victories, but it was Lombard who has the most to lose last night as he was a fresh face in the division and could have potentially earned a crack at the champion if he won impressively.
That didn't happen.
While Lombard came out with much more pep in his step than his UFC debut, he still couldn't quite land that heavy blow in the first round and actually allowed Okami to utilize his reach, landing some straight shots from the outside. When both men clinched in the cage center, Okami utilized that solid clinch wrestling attack of his to drag Lombard to the ground and while he couldn't keep him there, he was able to go to the single leg takedown every time he got inside.
Lombard looked very stationary in the second round and that made the striking much easier for his opponent. The second he started to open up, Okami again took him down and he clearly was in control for this frame as "Lightning" didn't offer much off his back other than to lock down most of the Japanese grappler's offensive attack and hardly did anything to try and work his way back to his feet.
Finally in the third round, Lombard showed a serious sense of urgency, going for broke with an offensive onslaught that clipped "Thunder" on multiple occasions and had the powerful wrestler reeling. Despite having his opponent in trouble, Lombard just couldn't quite land that kill shot to put Okami away for good. Lombard was able to stuff all of Okami's takedowns in the frame, but he decided to try and attack from within his guard rather than get back to his feet and try to knock the Team Quest fighter's head off. Lombard has never been much for doing serious damage on the ground and this was another example of that as Okami was able to hold on to the end of the fight and walk away with a split decision victory.
For Hector Lombard, perhaps he was a bit overconfident in his takedown defense and his overall striking skills in those first two rounds, because he just didn't go after it. He proved in the third that he was capable of completely overwhelming Okami and making him panic but he waited too long to do it. If he had tried to blitz "Thunder" in the first round, the final result of the fight could have been vastly different. He also didn't do nearly enough to get back to his feet once he was taken down and that came back to bite him when it came time for the judges to render their decision.
Lombard makes a ton of money and there's a chance he'll be released, but if not, there are still a ton of fights to make for him like the upcoming loser of the Michael Bisping vs Alan Belcher, Mark Munoz or perhaps Brian Stann once he's recovered from the Silva loss.
For Yushin Okami, it wasn't pretty, but he got the job done. Whenever he closed the distance, he was able to win the grappling exchanges with a judo Olympian in the clinch and that's something to hang his hat on. He also took advantage of whenever Lombard got too stationary and actually gained a bit of confidence in his striking in the second round. Once on the canvas, Okami was in control and did a good job to not only stay on top but be active enough to avoid stand-ups. Yes, the third round was ugly for him, but he survived and that's what's important. It was close, but Okami did enough to win that first two rounds and that's all it takes.
Okami is in an interesting situation as he has already been destroyed by Anderson Silva and would likely be destroyed again, but he's high enough up the food chain that he has to keep facing top title contenders and he keeps knocking them off. The promotion will likely want to throw him against fighters who are highly ranked but aren't in title contention. Potential foes include Tim Kennedy, Derek Brunson or perhaps the Francis Carmont vs Lorenz Larkin winner.