We should take a second to thank Yushin Okami. Yeah, you read that right- the guy who froze up like a deer in headlights when personally invited to throw bombs at the champion's chin. Sure, he was completely unable to implement the kind of takedown & top control heavy gameplan that he would've needed to win. But one thing Okami didn't do is run away. He didn't flop onto his back every time his half- hearted takedown attempts failed. He did try to force his game on "The Spider" for a little while; unfortunately, pressing Anderson to the fence and throwing some ineffectual rabbit punches was about the best offense Okami could muster. After realizing that he was having no success there, did he take the easy way out by prolonging the bro- hug, running away/ endlessly backpedalling, or taking a dive? No. Thunder Okami- outgunned and outmanned, went into the center of the Octagon and got kicked right in the fucking skull, luckily being saved by the bell as Ando swarmed him. The next round he came out once again, and in a playback of Silva's dazzling performance against Forrest Griffin, Yushin was knocked down with a sharp lead straight counter from the champion's hip. Okami stared up in awe, Anderson loomed o'er him, a menacing storm cloud; Yushin got right back up, pressed forward, swung his infinitely too slow punches... only to eat yet another sizzling counterpunch. This time, our Arachnoid friend wasted no time in going for the kill.
* Yushin is a guy who's made a career of always being consistently solid, if unspectacular.
* He's well put together, but not any kind of extraordinary athlete;
* he's well rounded, but nothing in his skillset is better than a B.
* Okami's never lost back to back fights, but he's never put together an outstanding win streak either.
* None of Thunder's wins really stick out (not withstanding the infamous DQ win over Anderson, a lackluster decision win over Marquardt is the best). His only finishes come over men who clearly can't cut it at the upper rungs of the sport, and his better wins on paper tend to be uneventful decisions.
* His losses (with the exception of the Shields decision, which honestly could've/ should've gone Yushin's way) are all to more talented, dynamic men- plain and simple.
But one thing you can say about the man is that he doesn't rack a disciprine. Every loss has been a catalyst for his continued growth and development as a fighter- getting overpowered by Ace Franklin led to a new S&P program; getting outclassed by Chael led to his American exodus. Okami may not be the most natural fighter, the fastest learner, or the most dynamic talent, but his status as perennially elite is constant- he's one of the rocks of 185.
I've always admired Okami's tenacity. It seems like forever that the "Okami deserves his rematch with Anderson" talk has been going on... at least since the very beginning of my MMA fandom (which began right around UFC 71). Those who dismissed those claims by saying that Anderson would squash him have been vindicated. It's not like Yushin is the best at marketing himself; he's a very unassuming character- very respectful towards his opponents, and genuinely humble in interviews and promos (which stands as a sharp contrast to his training partner Chael Sonnen's more... grandiose, abrasive style of self promotion). Unless Anderson has destroyed his iron will, I suspect he will come back stronger from this loss as well. At 30 years old, and 8+ years of fighting under his belt, he will likely continue to be a force at middleweight for a while to come, and unlike some other fans- I think there's value in being very good (but not great).
The reason I think we owe Yushin our gratitude is that despite all of his shortcomings, he didn't turn tail and fuck up the UFC's grand coming out party in a potentially huge market in Brazil. At the very least, Anderson needs to fight guys who won't run away. Fighters who will engage him, feed into his brilliant counter-fighting style. We've seen what happens when his opponents are tentative- he gets cranky and the jackass parade commences (and understandably so- he's the most brilliant fighter we've ever seen in the sport, and these men have the gall to waste his time by flopping onto their ass or refusing to engage him? Whatever happened to BEATING the champ?). Okami didn't bring the fight to Anderson as aggressively and confidently as past challengers like Lutter, Hendo, and Sonnen tried to, but he at least pressed forward, threw jabs, etc.
Yushin Okami was the Light Brigade charging into the Jaws of Death, and I for one think we should honor the charge he made- the noble one who didn't shit in the punch bowl.