Yushin Okami raising his hand following his win over Alan Belcher. - Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting
Two middleweights will attempt a step forward in the ranks with Yushin Okami looking to maintain his momentum in the win column while Hector Lombard seeks to maintain his hype.
Okami has had an odd, if not, misleading road up to this point. He got schooled by Anderson, which is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. He took a tough loss to Tim Boetsch, who he was dominating up until that point. His subsequent wins were mixed bags; Buddy Roberts landed good shots on Yushin, making the fight much tougher in practice than it was on paper, and failed to set the world ablaze against Alan Belcher, who he handled much better the first time.
Trying to capitalize on Okami's rugged performances is Hector Lombard; a fighter still trying to validate the hype he accrued in Bellator. I suppose the jury's still out on Lombard. We know what he can do, but do we know what he can do against top competition? Not really.
The Boetsch loss hurt his stock. It wasn't particularly embarrassing, but certainly not what was expected from a fighter many felt would be a legitimate contender to Silva's throne. However, he followed up that loss with a good win over jiu jitsu ace, Rousimar Palhares.
What both men can do: Lombard's face melting power is the ace up his sleeve and around his knuckles. He's got a good right hook, and a good straight left, and power in both.
His Judo background gives him the edge in most clinches. Since he's basically a bowling ball on legs, that marriage of technique and raw power allows him to score takedowns when he wants them. His Judo compliments his striking not simply because it allows him to win in different ways, but because they can act as pit stops.
Okami will look to do what he does every fight; clinch, takedown, top control. His boxing is quite solid. Yea he lost to Boetsch with strikes, but one of the reasons Joe Rogan overdosed and went into epileptic seizures in the commentary booth at UFC 144 is because Tim was getting cooked with jabs for two rounds, and was handily losing the fight until his impressive comeback.
It's hard to predict what will happen on the ground. I'd expect a long, audience-challenging battle in the clinch before finding out who will get top control. Neither guy will want to work from the bottom.
What both men can't do: Lombard's problem is several-fold. On the intangible side, he slows down the longer the fight goes. Physically, he'll always have a reach disadvantage being 5'8, and especially here, since Okami stands 6'2. Though his power is supernatural, he throws them one shot at a time. And while's capable of throwing a good flurry, he saves them for when he has his opponents hurt. If he spends too much time in the clinch, which is likely, there's a good chance Okami can run away with this fight.
Okami's problem is that his need for the clinch seeps into his striking; you saw this against Boetsch where he'd lunge in with his straight left; a tactic that can leave him open for the takedown, or make it easier for Lombard to counter. In addition, when he gets hurt, he basically runs away which opens him up to all sorts of unadulterated violence on Hector's part.
There's a possibility this fight becomes a blowout, and nothing about my predictions so far inspires confidence in believing otherwise, but Okami's reach should provide him a buffer to avoid Lombard's early aggression. If he can keep Lombard at bay for at least a round, and a round in which he forces Lombard to push and pull in the clinch, I suspect he'll score a victory in front of his homeland. Don't expect this to be a pretty fight, but at least we won't have to listen to drunken boos everytime two fighters pummel for more than two seconds. Expect a lot of drunken silence instead.
Prediction: I'm ready to give up on the Dallas Stars. Yushin Okami by Decision.