If the UFC wants to build-up what seems to be another pedestrian title defense by Anderson Silva against Yushin Okami, they should just put a microphone in front of Chael Sonnen, the last man to beat Okami and now his biggest fan and sometimes-training partner. In a hilarious, rambling interview with Ariel Hawani, Sonnen of course blast Brazillian fighters as "fakes," and saying that the fix was in in Japanese MMA. Basically he said guys like Fedor, Wanderlei Silva, and Mirko Cro Cop's careers where helped by corrupt promoters willing to fix fights to build stars. He claimed that none of Silva's wins are real - I would ask Rampage Jackson's forehead what he thought about that - but the Pride-Yakuza scandal does leave a cloud over the entire promotion.
But within the ramblings of a mad man, I found something interesting in what Sonnen said. He points out that all of these former Pride stars have done poorly in America. Here is a quick primer on Pride stars's record in America and in the UFC (to cover other fights overseas):
- Fedor Emlienenko: 3-2
- Wanderlei Silva: 2-5
- Mirko Cro Cop: 3-6
- Takanori Gomi: 1-2
- Big Nog: 3-2
- Little Nog: 2-1
- Shogun Rua: 3-3
These are not stellar records. Of this group, only Rua and Big Nog have won titles. Both lost in their first defense. Some of these losses have been to guys that, in Pride, would have been unfathomable. Maybe it is age, but I think its clear that the competition in America is just much better than it was in Japan. UFC champions don't get to take none-title fights against people like Minowaman.
I won't speak on Sonnen's charges that the fix was in, because I don't believe it for the most part. But when you look at this and then look at the career of Yushin Okami, and suddenly it looks quite impressive. As Sonnen has pointed out, Okami is the only major Japanese fighter to NOT go through Pride. He had only one fight in Pride; while cutting his teeth in smaller Japanese promotions and then Rumble on the Rock. He's been in the UFC for five years since 2006 and has gone 10-2 with his only losses to Rich Franklin (a 29-28 decision) and Sonnen (a decision). Unlike other Japanese fighters, Okami has developed a great grappling and wrestling game that more resembles what works in the American scene than Japan. He understands how to fight in a cage. Yes, he can be boring, but if you accept Sonnen's essential premise that the American MMA scene has always been far superior to Japans', doesn't one conclude that perhaps Okami's UFC run has been even more impressive?
Make no mistake, this is not a post about how Yushin Okami can beat Anderson Silva. But of all of Silva's challengers, who does Okami most resemble in style? Oh yeah . . . Chael Sonnen.