Let’s face it: life in the UFC has not exactly been kind to Yushin Okami. Despite a 6-1 record in the organization and a previous victory (albeit by DQ) over Anderson Silva, Okami is being relegated to the undercard tonight and is being passed up for a title shot in favor of Thales Leites for an April fight card.
Leites has not looked impressive on the two occasions he took a step up in quality of opposition. He dropped a decision to Martin Kampmann and suffered a piledriver at the hands of Nate Marquardt, which was — as those silly fuckers in Boston say — wicked pissa, whether or not it was legal.
I’m not going to go out and accuse the UFC of blatant racism like some have implied, as there are other valid reasons. First and foremost, Okami has won fights but not been too exciting in doing so — which is the same problem Lyoto Machida suffers from. Secondly, Okami’s main event fight against Franklin was one of the worst selling pay-per-views of the modern UFC. This should be attributed more towards Franklin’s shitty drawing power and that it was aired via tape delay rather than any fault of Okami’s, but his participation in the main event doesn’t help his case either. Third (the giant pink elephant in the room) is the fact that Okami’s most recent victory was a KO of a beloved member of the MMA community who just died tragically. Granting Okami a high profile title shot after he put a beat down on the recently deceased Evan Tanner might leave a bad taste in the mouths of some people. I don’t personally have a problem with it but I’ve also been called a “cold hearted cocksucker” by my own grandmother so my opinion might not count for much.
Yushin Okami is in a must-win situation against Dean Lister tonight. Lister is primarily a submission grappler who isn’t exactly known for his FOTY caliber fights, but is a tough opponent and a seasoned vet nonetheless. If I was Okami, I would pull out all the stops to highlight reel the shit out of Lister and follow it up by pulling a Tonya Harding on Thales Leites, thus taking his spot against Silva. I heard Kalib Starnes is having trouble finding work so I don’t think it would take much money to get him to go down to Leites’ gym with a Louisville slugger.
Should Okami fail to beat Lister, he’ll basically be relegated to Heath Herring-level gatekeeper for the foreseeable future. That’s like being a Friday afternoon stripper as opposed to a Saturday night stripper — it ain’t flashy but it’ll pay the bills.