UFC 144 In-Depth Preview: Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch

Yushin Okami (center) is one of the most successful Japanese fighters in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, making him an obvious booking for the UFC's return to Japan. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

Former UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami will look to rebound from his loss to Anderson Silva by handing Tim Boetsch his first ever middleweight defeat. For his part, Boetsch knows that a victory over the #3 middleweight in the world will lend instant credibility to his 2-0 record since making the drop from light heavyweight.

Yushin Okami

Okami is the most-tenured Japanese fighter on the current UFC roster, with nearly half of his 32-fight career having taken place in the UFC since joining in in 2006. With just three losses in his UFC career, to champion Anderson Silva and in a pair of #1 contender bouts, Okami is one of the best there is at 185 pounds.

Recent Fights

After twice having fallen in bouts which would have earned a shot at Anderson Silva's belt, first dropping a decision to former champion Rich Franklin then again coming up short against Chael Sonnen, Okami finally got over the bar and earned his shot at the title. A TKO of Lucio Linhares was followed up by decisions over Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt, setting up a rematch with Silva, who Okami holds a win over from a Rumble on the Rock bout when Silva was disqualified for head kicking Okami while the Japanese fighter was in his guard. The rematch also ended with Okami battered and unable to defend himself, and unfortunately for Okami the blows were all legal this time.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Okami's style inside the cage is not always the most crowd-pleasing, but he remains one of the most effective fighters in the sport at forcing his game plan onto an opponent. Although his striking at range has improved, and he should hold an edge in this fight in that phase, it remains the weakest aspect of his game. Where Okami prefers to be is in tight. He has good offense from in the clinch, with both strikes and throws, and once on the mat he possesses a smothering top game which he uses to earn TKO's or dominant decisions.

Fantasy Impact

Okami is giving a +2 underdog bonus to his opponent in fantasy picking, which is usually the surest sign that you want to be picking somebody to win a fight. Okami has a much more proven record at the upper end of the sport, and should take the bout comfortably. The question becomes whether or not Okami can finish Boetsch, and while he has struggled with being decision-heavy in his UFC career, he has also spent much of it against top-end opposition, and this bout seems like another chance like the Linhares fight to pick up a TKO win in the middle frame.

Tim Boetsch analysis after the jump.

Tim Boetsch

Boetsch first found himself on the big stage when he was called up as a very late replacement for the IFL semi-finals in 2007. Boetsch took on Vladimir Matyushenko on just three days notice as the light heavyweight for Renzo Gracie's Pitbulls, and although he dropped a decision, his late notice performance against a veteran like The Janitor was impressive enough to earn his first call up to the big show.

Recent Fights

After a 2-2 run in the UFC, Boetsch was released and sent back to smaller shows. With three consecutive wins in the minors, Boetsch was brought back to the UFC and re-debuted with a decision win over Todd Brown. Boetsch next found himself on the wrong side of Phil Davis' "wonderbar" submission, and after being physically dominated by Davis made the decision to drop down to middleweight. With a pair of decision wins over TUF alums Kendall Grove and Nick Ring, Boetsch enters the bout with Okami unbeaten at his new weight class.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Boetsch is a wrestler who does his best work when he is making fights ugly, dumping opponents to the mat and working ground and pound from on top of them. Where Boetsch has struggled in the past is when faced with opponents who he could not dominate positionally, and as a result was forced to slug it out on the feet, or worse put on his back and forced to work from on bottom. The move down to middleweight has done wonders to prevent that from happening, however in Okami he now faces a massive middleweight on par physically with many light heavyweights who is also an expert in grappling, which could prove troublesome for Boetsch.

Fantasy Impact

The fantasy betting lines for this fight are pretty well aligned with the pros, giving a payoff of +340 on Boetsch. Although that is an appealingly large reward for a successful bet, it's hard to feel very confident in picking Boetsch in a fight where it appears that he is the physically smaller fighter and also facing an opponent who does everything he does just better. If you insist on picking Boetsch in your fantasy picks, go with the split decision, but even that is a pick made at your own risk.

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