Two middleweights moving in opposite directions will square off this Saturday night (August 11, 2012) as former 185 pound title challenger Yushin Okami takes on relative promotional newbie Buddy Roberts on the UFC 150 main card in Denver, Colorado.
Okami is coming off two emotionally crippling knockout losses in a row. The first was to champion Anderson Silva, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but the second was to Tim Boetsch after he had dominated "The Barbarian" for two straight rounds. He is in desperate need of a victory on Saturday.
Buddy Roberts was just in the right place at the right time. Originally slated to face Chris Camozzi for his second career UFC fight, he stepped up and accepted the Okami bout when Rousimar Palhares went down with an injury. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter will be easily facing the sternest test of his career.
Can Okami get back on track? Will Buddy Roberts keep Okami's losing streak intact? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out:Yushin Okami
Record: 26-7 overall, 10-4 in the UFC
How he got here: With a strong history in wrestling, Yushin Okami began his career competing primarily in Japan, where he made appearances with the Pride, Pancrase and GCM promotions. His most notable early career appearance was during the infamous Rumble on the Rock event where he was struck by Anderson Silva with an illegal blow to win via disqualification.
He would lose in the next round to Jake Shields, but undeterred, he won his next two fights which earned him an invite to the UFC, where he defeated Alan Belcher via unanimous decision in his promotion debut.
While in the UFC, Okami was always doing just enough to be in the talks for title contention, but never quite getting over the top of the hill and get his shot. He didn't exactly have the most fan-friendly fighting style with his wrestling, top control and more pressure-based striking attack in the stand-up.
At UFC 72, he had a four fight promotional win streak snapped by Rich Franklin which would have given him a title shot. After another three fight winning streak, he would be derailed once more by Chael Sonnen at UFC 104. The Japanese grinder would move to Team Quest after the Sonnen defeat and put together another solid three fight winning streak, this time knocking off top middleweights Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt to finally capture his title shot.
Unfortunately, the rematch with Anderson Silva did not go very well as Okami was humiliated by "The Spider" via second round technical knockout in a bout he was not competitive in whatsoever. He was hoping to get back on track against Tim Boetsch his native Japan but was stunned in the third round and finished after dominating most of the fight.
Now, he's trying to pick up the pieces against Buddy Roberts.
How he gets it done: Okami has some crisp boxing and some terrific top control-based takedowns. I think the biggest advantage he has in this fight is his punching in the stand-up and his speed. He doesn't have to worry too much about explosive power from Buddy Roberts so he should aggressively be pushing forward.
Another big advantage for this fight should be Okami's wrestling. I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see him play it safe and work for takedowns from the clinch if he can close the distance or maneuver Roberts into the fence with his footwork.
If he can dump Roberts on his back, Okami needs to go to work with ground and pound and do as much damage from a superior position as possible.
Record: 12-2 overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Buddy Roberts worked his way up the hard way on the local circuit. He competed primarily as a light heavyweight while improving his skills and he really took his career to the next level once he teamed up with Greg Jackson's gym in early 2011.
After a pair of decision victories including his first five round fight, he was offered a spot in the UFC. He was slated to make his debut against Sean Loeffler but a freak ankle injury to Loeffler put an end to that on fight night. Roberts would finally make his promotional debut this past June, defeating Caio Magalhaes via unanimous decision by primarily using superior striking.
He was slated to face Chris Camozzi at UFC 150, but when Rousimar Palhares went down with an injury, he stepped up and took his place.
How he gets it done: Roberts needs to try and play cat and mouse with Okami. He shouldn't stay in one place too long or he'll be a sitting duck for clinch and takedown attempts and he shouldn't be in the pocket too long either or Okami will likely crack him with his superior striking.
If Roberts can dart in and out with a "hit and run" style, he can get in, score his points and get out. He is a former light heavyweight so strength and size likely won't be a big disadvantage like most of Okami's opponents, but he still shouldn't put himself in situations where he can get thrown around.
If he can score with strikes, perhaps rock Okami with a strike (and that's very possible) he needs to go balls to the wall trying to finish the fight. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Roberts and he needs to capitalize just like Boetsch did.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Okami's confidence. He's not just coming off two losses, he's coming off of two straight embarrassing knockouts. The first was in a fight where he got blown out and the second was a fight he clearly should have won and he got caught completely off guard.
If Okami is gunshy even a little bit, perhaps that could leave an opening for Roberts to get in and take over. If he's just as motivated as he was in the first two rounds against Boetsch, then he shouldn't have any trouble here.
Bottom Line: This fight doesn't have much potential, to be honest. Roberts didn't exactly light the world on fire in his UFC debut against an opponent that isn't even one fourth the fighter that Okami is. I think he'll have to use a really boring gameplan if he wants to win. There's also no telling how Okami is going to respond after two brutal losses. He could be very passive. I have absolutely no expectations for this one.
Who will come out on top at UFC 150? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!