Photo by Paul Thatcher of Fight! Magazine
When the bell sounded signaling the end of round three, it looked like Yushin Okami would coast to a unanimous 29-28 decision on the judges' scorecards. The first round, admittedly, featured very little action. FightMetric's report for the fight shows Okami with a 2-1 advantage in overall strikes (14 to 7), while Munoz held a slight 4-3 lead in the new Significant Strikes category. (Significant Strikes "includes all strikes at distance and power strikes in the clinch and on the ground.") Nearly all (13) of Okami's strikes, however, went to the head. Five of Munoz's strikes went to the body or legs.
In addition, Okami largely controlled the pace and location of the fight. Okami kept Mark's back to the fence and stuffed all but one takedown in the round (and he scrambled to his feet less than ten seconds later).
Unfortunately, Cecil Peoples scored cageside for this one. Naturally, when Bruce Buffer read the decision, we were given an Okami split decision victory with Peoples turning in the dissenting 29-28 Munoz card.
Instead of focusing on Peoples strange take on the Unified Rules, there's three points that I thought were significant to the fight.
1. Yushin Okami's footwork is good - A lot of fighters move forward and backward, content to chase their opponent around the cage. Yushin Okami made excellent use of lateral movement, forcing Munoz's back to face the fence for much of the fight. This prevented Munoz from being able to press Okami up against the fence to dirty box or continue fighting for a takedown. In addition, it built on the progress he made in the Linhares fight, fighting more aggressively instead of looking to backpedal and counter.
2. Mark Munoz does not have good MMA wrestling - Well, at least not in this fight. FightMetric tallied 15 separate attempts for Munoz and credited him with one successful takedown. This is not a very efficient use of one's wrestling. Chael Sonnen took down Yushin Okami throughout their fight. Why was he successful? Okami was returning from a torn knee ligament, but Sonnen set up his takedowns with strikes. Not once did I see Munoz throw a punch before changing levels. And by round three, when fatigue had set in, he resigned himself to just dropping to his knees and literally diving at Okami's legs.
3. Yushin Okami fought with a sense of urgency in round three - There are a handful of things that could be at play here. 1) Okami's corner told him he was behind and needed to finish. 2) His corner thought he was tied, but wanted a decisive third round. 3) The Okami camp saw that Munoz was visibly tired. 4) Knowing that Munoz had no ability to put him on his back, Okami felt safe in opening up his game. Regardless of the reason (or combination of reasons), Okami pressed on Munoz from the start of the round. Take a look at Okami's strike totals by round:
Munoz, by comparison, landed six strikes the whole round and failed on all six of his takedown attempts.