Yushin Okami Eyes Marquardt as Part of the Road to Silva Rematch
11/06/2010 12:55 PM ET By Mike Chiappetta
Yushin Okami is the last man to beat current UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, so it would seem like a title bout pitting the two with Silva having a shot at revenge would seem a natural fit. Yet despite a strong run in the UFC, Okami has never been able to work his way into a position to challenge the champ.
Okami has essentially had two golden opportunities to get there in his UFC tenure. In the first, he lost to Rich Franklin at UFC 72. In the second, he dropped a decision to Chael Sonnen at UFC 104. The winners of both of those fights were propelled into a title match with Silva.
Now, Okami wants his turn.
"I'd like to fight against Anderson Silva," he admitted through his interpreter during a recent UFC 122 conference conference call.
He will add a strong point to his case if he can defeat Nate Marquardt on Nov. 13 in Oberhausen, Germany.
Okami has called the UFC home for four years, and boasts an impressive 9-2 record in the UFC's octagon (he's 25-5 all time). Yet he just hasn't gotten over the hump to fight for a championship. And while a small contingent of vocal fans believe he already should've had the chance to face Silva, he disagrees that he's been intentionally skipped over.
"I have lost some very important fights so I never thought I was bypassed," he said.
Yet at the same time, Okami has to know he could be running out of opportunities. Though he's just 29 and likely still has several good years ahead, another loss to a top-level contender with a potential title shot on the line, and many will start to wonder if he just can't win the big one.
"It's going to be a big challenge because Nate Marquardt is a very well-rounded fighter, and he has no weakness," he said. "He has very good finishing power so I should be very careful about that."
One criticism of Okami has been a belief that he lacks finishing instinct and aggression. In his last eight fights, he's been to a decision six times. And in all his time in the UFC, he's never won a nightly award for the best fight, knockout or submission.
Still, there's little argument with the strong record of success, and there's no question he's faced many excellent fighters along the way, including wins over Alan Belcher, Mike Swick, the late Evan Tanner and Mark Munoz. His somewhat-forgotten win over Silva came in January 2006, and came via disqualification after Silva illegally kicked a downed Okami.
"I would like to finish with a KO or submission," he said. "I've been training for finishing Nate Marquardt in three rounds so I have no pressure of decision or anything like that."
It's a real concern for fighters in the UFC to not just win, but win impressively. Some have had seemingly promised title shots taken away after not performing to an expected level. Okami says there won't be a thought of that in his mind. He'll be focused on his opponent, the moment and what he's fighting for.
"I do not have that kind of pressure," he said. "I'm prepared for the fight and I know that when I do what I have to do, it's going be a very exciting fight."
"Anderson Silva is one of my goals so this is a very important step for me."