In what has to be the most surprising release since Jon Fitch, the UFC has cut former middleweight title contender Yushin Okami. MMAjunkie confirmed the news with UFC officials. Okami had a 3-2 record since losing his title shot against Anderson Silva at UFC 134.
Prior to his title fight the UFC was billing Okami as "the best fighter to ever come out of Japan." It's high praise, and while maybe somewhat exaggerated, he certainly has a claim for being in the top 5. Before his loss to Ronaldo Souza at UFC Fight Night 28, Okami was on a three fight winning steak with decision victories over Alan Belcher and Hector Lombard and a TKO win over Buddy Roberts. However each of his recent losses have come by TKO, and while they were all against top competition it's apparent that the UFC felt that this was a sign that he was generally on the downside of his career.
It's hard not to mirror this release to that of Jon Fitch, who was released after a decision loss to Demian Maia despite a 14-3-1 record with the promotion and a perennial slot in the welterweight top ten. Okami has been a top ranked fighter since 2007 when he beat Mike Swick. Even right now the UFC has him listed at no. 6 in their own system. It's hard to justify cutting a top fighter, even one who's never proven himself do be an exciting performer, or top draw, but it's a precedent that the UFC has now clearly set and is looking to reinforce.
What do you think? Does letting go of Thunder make sense? Is the UFC making a shrewd business decision? Or is this just another sign that they are fighting the wrong battle between sports and entertainment?
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