One wonders, at 32 years of age, and with more than 11 years in MMA, if Okami's better days are past him -- especially with the way it seemed that Okami was struggling to deal with some of the heavy hitters that he faced in recent fights. Anderson Silva, Ronaldo Souza, and Tim Boetsch all defeated the Japanese standout in highlight reel fashion. Still, the former title challenger only suffered back-to-back loses one time in his career. However, he was still unable to avoid the chopping block after losing in his most recent outing.
In seven years of Octagon service, Okami amassed a 13-5 record, which includes eight decisions and five stoppages. His resume-building wins include former middleweight champion Evan Tanner, former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt, Mark Munoz, Mike Swick, and two wins over Alan Belcher. Looking at the major media outlets that cover the sport, Okami is consistently ranked within the top ten of the division, including by the UFC, who had Okami at the tenth spot of their internal fighter rankings before removing his name and the tenth selection completely from their list.
However, in today's MMA landscape, Okami could never be considered an exciting fighter by the standard that the UFC looks to promote. He uses a wrestling-heavy style, and it was rare that he would finish a fight in one form or another. His bouts with Belcher at UFC 155 and Hector Lombard at UFC on Fuel TV 8 were prime examples of how he has the ability to control fighters en route to victory. Unfortunately for him, that fighting style has been frowned upon in recent years, as the sport has been forced to conform to the attention span of mainstream fans.
Okami's contract status did not help his position either coming off that defeat to “Jacare.” All of Okami's recent paychecks haven't been disclosed, but when he defeated Belcher, his total payout was $84,000, which includes a $42,000 win bonus. When it comes to UFC salaries, that number is certainly on the high end of the scale, which may have played a part in why he was cut from the organization.
This situation will certainly bring back the discussion surrounding fighter pay, and the battle that the UFC is in when comparing ratings and rankings. Should the promotion keep fighters such as Okami on hand, fighters who may not create exciting style matchups for viewers? Or does the promotion see more value in fighters such as Chris Leben, who consistently trade wins and losses while throwing caution to the wind in their bouts? As the sport continues to grow and rankings become more prevalent, this is a conversation that will not fade away.
Yushin Okami's release from the UFC shows that UFC roster spots will be hard to maintain for some fighters in the near future. Will there be a certain segment of fighters that may feel the pinch before others? Potentially, and “Thunder” could be the just the latest in a long line of “grinders” given their walking papers, as the UFC seeks to retain fighters who will deliver ratings, rankings be damned.