Yushin Okami (25-5 MMA, 9-2 UFC) says Team Quest has given him the roadmap to beat Nate Marquardt (30-9-2 MMA, 9-3 UFC).
The Japanese middleweight first sought guidance from Team Quest after one of its brightest – and most controversial – standouts, Chael Sonnen, bested him at UFC 104.
Now he's back again as he prepares for a fight that could vault him into title contention, and he says he's picked up a few new tricks.
"I've gotten many techniques from Team Quest, so now I believe I have more power than Nate," he told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com
) through a translator following a training session.
Okami and Marquardt square-off in the main event of UFC 122, which takes place Nov. 13 at Konig Pilsener Arena in Oberhausen, Germany. Spike TV airs the event at 9 p.m. ET/PT on approximately a six-hour delay for East Coast viewers (and nine hours for the West Coast).
Vitor Belfort (19-8 MMA, 8-4 UFC) was originally pegged to meet Okami at the overseas event but was bumped up for a shot at middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva when Sonnen tested positive for elevated testosterone following an unsuccessful bid for Silva's belt at UFC 117.
The change brought little fuss from Okami, who simply logged more hours with orthodox stance fighters to match Marquardt's style.
He's similarly unconcerned about the fight's raised stakes, even though he'd love to get another shot at Silva, whom he beat more than four years ago when Silva was disqualified for throwing an illegal upkick.
"I'm not thinking about the title fight," Okami said. "I'm thinking about the challenge that's facing me right now, and my game plan to win this fight."
The game plan is under lock and key, though he said "speed and power" are the two keys to victory against Marquardt, a former King of Pancrase champion who works with famed trainers Greg Jackson and Trevor Wittman and makes a quick turnaround from a first-round TKO of Rousimar Palhares in September.
In his most recent fight, Okami learned a lesson similar to the one he gleaned from his losing effort against Sonnen. He met Mark Munoz in March at UFC on Versus 2 and was often put on his heels by the wrestling standout's constant pressure. He barely escaped with a split decision.
"I learned the importance of going forward and not waiting to attack," Okami said of the fight. "To go hard physically and mentally."
Both Sonnen and Team Quest co-founder Matt Lindland have been working closely with Okami to follow through on that philosophy. Lindland thinks Okami's size will present several difficulties for Marquardt.
"[Okami is] going to have a lot more power in the clinch than Nate, and I think even his punching, too," Lindland said.
Sonnen, of course, has first-hand experience with Marquardt. He bucked the odds when the two met at UFC 109 and dominated the fight from bell to bell with a relentless ground and pound attack. Okami won't say what tips he's picked up.
"It's a secret," he said.
Apparently, though, he's also gotten a few lessons on Sonnen's other field of expertise – trash talking. There, however, he's a work in progress, so don't hold your breath for some snappy one-liners.
"A little bit softer than Chael," Okami said of his work on that front. "Chael wows me. I'm going to try to learn from Chael. It's going to take time."
Of the regulatory trouble that Sonnen currently faces, Okami supports his new teammate.
"He's innocent, he said. "I trained with Chael and I think he's innocent [because] of his personality."
Even if he can't say how he'll do it, Okami can promise that the fans will see a lot of Sonnen and the rest of the Team Quest crew when he and Marquardt lock up.
That's the roadmap he's following.