UFC 144: Yushin Okami Vs. Tim Boetsch Dissection

Fighter images via UFC.com

UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson will stage the return of the UFC's most successful Japanese competitor in middleweight Yushin Okami, who's paired with 205-pound crossover Tim Boetsch. The match up adorns Saturday night's main card offering from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.

Yushin Okami (26-6) has slowly permeated into the upper echelon of the world rankings since he set up shop with the UFC back in 2006. Okami paraded in with a lustrous nineteen-fight record highlighted by sixteen wins and fresh off a memorable second-place finish in the Rumble on the Rock 175-pound tournament. Okami advanced in the opening round of the Hawaiian promotion's stacked Grand Prix with a controversial win over current middleweight monarch Anderson Silva. "The Spider" sliced an illegal up-kick from his back and was disqualified when Okami couldn't continue, and future dual-class juggernaut Jake Shields out-hustled Okami via decision to clench the tournament championship.

At the time of his promotional debut at UFC 62, Okami's three career defeats were all dealt by reputable, UFC-caliber opposition: Shields, Hawaiian Falaniko Vitale and Red Devil Sport Club's Amar Suloev. Okami's tour of duty in the Octagon is thirteen deep with ten victories. His three UFC losses are of a highly respectable nature as well, as only former champ Rich Franklin and the best two middleweights in the world (Chael Sonnen and Silva in the rematch) have topped him.


More UFC 144 Dissections

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Mizugaki vs. Cariaso | Zhang vs. Tamura


Tim Boetsch (14-4) debuted at UFC 81 as a light-heavyweight who'd only been beaten by Vladimir Matyushenko. "The Barbarian" suggested just another cliché, tough-guy nickname until the barrel-chested Boetsch snorted like an antagonized musk ox, flung David Heath airborne across the cage and bludgeoned him senseless with strikes. Then it made perfect sense. The tastefully uncivilized thrasing was a hit with fans and Boetsch emerged as an appreciated addition.

The former Lock Haven University wrestler became a Matt Hume student at AMC Pankration and began his career with six straight stoppages (three subs and TKOs apiece, four in the first frame) before encountering Matyushenko in the IFL. He faced a steep challenge after dusting Heath in the form of a short-notice match with Matt Hamill. He would fall in the second and go on to win one (Michael Patt by first-round clubbing) but lose the following (Jason Brilz, unanimous decision) and receive his walking papers.

Racking up two quick stoppages outside the UFC, Boetsch reappeared and split results again (decision win over Todd Browne, submission loss to Phil Davis) but this time declared that he would drop twenty and become a middleweight. Dominant decisions over Kendall Grove and Nick Ring in his last two proved the choice to be a wise one.

Gifs and analysis in the full entry.

SBN coverage of UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson

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The patient stalking we see from Okami to the right accounts for the bulk of his strategy.

Throughout his half-decade in the Octagon, Okami has whittled his striking into a very simple but effective boxing onslaught. He rolled out a markedly improved set of hands against Lucio Linhares and has been increasingly confident on the feet ever since.

This was a landmark evolution for Okami, who was previously defined as a strong Judoka and wrestler with weak-to-mediocre stand up.

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The end result was not just being a more diverse threat, but it gave Okami the ability to fluidly transition into takedowns and/or tie-ups, whereas he'd forced those initiatives in the past and opponents knew it was coming.

In the gif above, Okami throws short, controlled bursts of laser-straight one-twos and uses them to steer Marquardt into the fence before dropping levels for a double. He's been flicking out his long jab regularly and effectively and, after plugging with straight punches, Okami switches it up to the left by leading with a beautiful uppercut.

Though it's not the most pronounced variable, Okami is chillingly composed and methodical with his boxing. Drawing on the immovable base from his black belt in Judo, he never gets off-balance and measures his footwork carefully while striking so that he's always poised to defend an incoming takedown or shoot one of his own. If anything, Okami has been a little too calculative in the stand up; at times it seems he could benefit from amping up his aggression, but he's unshakably judicious in his output and strike selection.

The following two Judo Chops are imperative reading material on Okami's two core competencies: striking and top-side grappling tactics. They're wonderfully in-depth with an endless amount of gifs but too much so to include here and will serve better as secondary analyses.


Judo Chop: Yushin Okami's Improved Striking Acumen by Kid Nate

Judo Chop: Yushin Okami's Library of Guard Attacks by K.J. Gould


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If you put Tim Boetsch's four career defeats under the microscope, there is a glaring, common theme in each: they were all dealt by beefy wrestlers whom he could not take down.

Matyushenko, Hamill, Brilz and Davis all staved off his takedown attempts and either dabbed him up on the feet or put him on his back. Okami is atop the division for excelling with that exact medley of attributes and, on paper, should have the superior level of striking and wrestling.

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Really, though you'd be hard-pressed to confuse the two in a lineup, Boetsch and Okami have an identical set of goals in a fight, which is to grease the rails for clinching or takedowns with their striking. Both are ridiculously powerful for the weight class and their strength plays a large role, with the salient differences being that Okami is taller (6'2" vs. 5'11") but Boetsch is beefier with a longer reach (74" vs. 72"). Additionally, Boetsch brings an unorthodox Jeet Kune Do base in striking, a traditional D1 wrestling background and the primitive savagery of an angry caveman.

In his losses, Boetsch struggled to close distance because he lacked the icy composure and balance that Okami has. He typically barges forward with a wicked array of big punches and looks to maul in the clinch rather than methodically seek ideal openings from ideal positions with technical striking and footwork.

Boetsch does have a substantial power advantage on the feet and could catch Okami, but "Thunder" has a strong beard and the more polished and accurate striking. Looking at Okami's defeats, he was finished via TKO by Anderson Silva and way back in 2003 against Suloev, a perilous striker, and out-muscled by athletic fighters (Vitale) or elite grapplers (Sonnen, Shields). Boetsch does fit the bill for the latter two categories.

To summarize, it just seems like Okami has a better chance of imposing his will: his movement, footwork and striking are tighter and his clinch game and grappling are more technical and more proven against A-list competition.

My Prediction: Yushin Okami by decision.

Okami vs. Linhares Gif by themachiavellian

All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com

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